Sense of community: the invaluable gift

Social Sciences

- Erin Hall

Marthyman. Credit: UVic Photo Services

Donor support propels young student to discover new passions

At 18 years old—the age most students finish high school—Arista Marthyman will soon graduate with a degree in sociology and a passion for labour and children’s rights. After being homeschooled until grade 10, she started high school at 13, began studying at Camosun college at 15 and later transferred to the University of Victoria.

One of the challenges she faced as an underage student arose when applying for scholarships. Often, these applications would exclude her from eligibility by explicitly asking her to list her experiences starting from a certain age—often 16. Despite significant volunteer experience and engagement in her community, these requirements made it impossible to compete for many scholarships.

“A lot of scholarships have minimum age requirements or want community service examples with defined qualifying timelines,” she says. “[Youth] is not something people think of as a barrier, but it is.”

Despite this, Arista’s academic excellence and rigorous scholarship application processes paid off. In addition to several entrance scholarships, she has received the Jarmila Vlasta Von Drak Thouvenelle Scholarship, the Roy E. L. Watson Scholarship, and the Knowledge First Foundation Scholarship. She is thankful that approximately 75 per cent of her university tuition was covered by scholarships, many of them funded by donors.

The actual impact of these scholarships goes way beyond the financial. It makes me feel very honoured that other people are willing to give that gift to me and support me in that way, whether it’s [individual donors] or different departments, or the university as a whole. There’s a sense of community that I feel knowing other people are invested and care about my success and my educational journey. That’s invaluable.”

—Arista Marthyman, UVic sociology student and scholarship recipient

Arista says the community support she received through scholarships motivated her to dedicate herself to academics and give back to the community. She was introduced to the Workers Solidarity Network (WSN) through a sociology class on work and employment. During her time volunteering at the WSN, an organization that supports ununionized workers dealing with oppressive or illegal working conditions.

Her passion for labour rights grew and inspired her honours thesis in sociology. Arista’s research explores how uncertified interpreters understand their role, navigate oppressive power dynamics and provide ethical support to migrant agricultural workers in British Columbia. Recognizing that migrant workers experience disempowerment, language barriers, structural violence, and precarious immigration status sparked her interest in the interpreters who enable them to access community and resources.  

A steward of resources

Taking into account the knowledge and perspective she has gained from her sociology degree, Arista is quick to minimize the challenges she faced early in her education journey.

“The barriers that I have experienced are nowhere even close to the barriers that exist for people I have volunteered with or the social situations my research participants are facing,” she says. “Looking at the validity of the experiences other people have encountered that are so far from my own [reality], has pushed me to be a lot more open-minded and caring.”

This understanding has widely shaped the research Arista conducts and how she interacts with her community. In both her personal and academic endeavours, she advocates for marginalized peoples, climate justice, and youth rights. In 2021, she presented with a team from the David Suzuki Foundation at the Phoenix Consultation for Children’s Rights to a Healthy Environment. She spoke about the conflict young women are facing when considering having children, given the climate crisis. Currently, Arista is a volunteer researcher for the International Institute for Child Rights and Development, where she is exploring the effectiveness of human rights teaching materials used to educate children. Passionate about helping others find meaningful community connections, she also volunteers as a UVic Recruitment Ambassador, a Global Community Mentor for new international students, and a UVic Orientation Leader.

“Marthyman
Marthyman in China

After graduation, she plans to take a break from school, find work in the community and potentially return to the university for graduate studies. She also hopes to become a scholarship donor one day and pay it forward with the generosity and support she has received. 

“These people entrusted me with resources to finish my education, and I feel that I have a responsibility as a steward of those resources. I need to use them wisely and pass it along.”

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Keywords: youth, philanthropy

People: Arista Marthyman


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