For Opticianry diploma program student Moon-Joo Choi, the pandemic brought on unexpected financial challenges. Like many others, Ms. Choi was unable to work but needed funds for her program fees. Being an international student from Korea and isolated from the Seneca community while trying to adjust to online learning made the situation even more difficult.

But with support from the Academy of Ophthalmic Education (AOE), Ms. Choi persevered.

Ms. Choi is one of seven Seneca students who received an AOE Opticianry Student Bursary of $1,000. The bursary is available to full-time and part-time Opticianry students who have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and demonstrate financial need.

“As an optician myself, there is nothing more important for me than supporting Opticianry students financially, academically through our AOE online portal, and by providing access to future employers through our website,” said Ali Khan, CEO, AOE.

The AOE Opticianry Student Bursary was established from funds raised by AOE in response to an increased need for student support brought on by the pandemic. In the fall of 2020, 79 per cent of students reported experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic, 75 per cent said their employment had also been affected and 27 per cent reported having experienced food insecurity due to the pandemic.

“This AOE Opticianry Student Bursary has been really helpful to me in this difficult situation,” said Ms. Choi. “I hope I can become a professional optician in the future and help students as AOE did.”

Another international student, Dayana Mokhtarsaadatmand, also received a bursary. “As an international student, you don’t have the opportunity to get financial aid through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP),” she said. “Managing to pay your tuition fees and being careful with your budget can be challenging, and this gift from the AOE will make it easier for students to get over all these challenges.”

In addition to the bursaries awarded last year, AOE has announced a new donation of $6,000 that was raised during a webinar held this May. Recognizing that the pandemic will have long-lasting impacts, funding support from AOE will go a long way in helping to ensure Opticianry students have the support they need to be able to focus on their studies and remain in the program.

Original article found here (Sept 2021):