The SEF 50

In London Ontario, we know that 1 in 5 children and youth are living in poverty. We also know that lack of education is a major contributor to generational poverty. In order to break this cycle, young people need equal access to the kind of education, resources and support that can lead to a successful career in their future. 

The Southdale Education Fund recognizes the power of education. We also recognize the added barriers that young people living in poverty face when trying to pursue college or university. Those living in poverty not only experience financial challenges, but often experience reduced capacity to achieve the same levels of success that other students might achieve. For example, many young people experiencing poverty have to work part-time jobs and provide care for family members, therefore reducing the amount of time that can be spent studying or engaging in extracurricular activities at school. As a result there are less grants and bursaries available to them. 

The Southdale Education Fund seeks to address this gap in financial aid. We want to support and celebrate those students who are balancing life’s challenges of living in poverty, while still pursuing their goals. We want to shift our community’s perspective on what it means to achieve greatness while in high school. And we are looking for your support through our new campaign, The SEF 50 to do just that. 

At the beginning of 2020 we set out to raise $25,000 to build a sustainable education fund that will provide a $1000 bursary each year to a deserving student in need. As we are sure you can imagine, the effects of COVID-19 created obstacles for our organization. However, we have launched into 2021 with renewed energy!

We are looking for 50 companies in our local community that are willing to make a one time donation of $500.00 to the Southdale Education Fund to make a difference in the lives of London youth and we would love for you to be a part of our journey. If you are interested in being a part of The SEF 50 please let us know!

Virtual Cooking Workshop

Join us for a virtual evening in the kitchen! The Southdale Education Fund will be joined by Marlene Cornelis, recipe developer and writer behind the food blog Urban Cottage Life | Modern Scratch Living, for an easy and affordable cooking demonstration!

About Marlene:

“My name is Marlene Cornelis. I’m a home cook, recipe developer and food writer living in London (the other one, in Ontario, Canada). I’m passionate about what I like to call modern scratch living: preparing good food from scratch, reviving the art of relaxed hospitality, and doing the odd crafting or home updating project. I also like to share photographs from my ambles around London or travels farther afield.”

Check out Marlene’s blog at

For the Love of Reading

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Beginning Friday June 19th, each week, members of the Southdale Education Fund volunteer team will be posting an audio recording of one chapter of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Listening is free, but donations are accepted and much appreciated. All proceeds will go towards the Southdale Education Fund. The Southdale Education Fund works to distribute, at minimum, a $1000 bursary to a deserving student from a single-parent family, facing financial challenges. The bursary is intended to support students in whatever way that they need – whether it be tuition, textbooks, food, or bills.

To produce a weekly serial audiobook of The Great Gatsby was a deliberate choice on our end. It is a beloved novel that most read in high school. We wanted to create a fundraiser that would not only raise money, but benefit current students and members of our community. Not all of us are visual learners or find comfort in sitting and reading literature; some of us may be auditory or kinaesthetic learners. With our audiobook, you can listen at your discretion; you can put your headphones in and go for a walk and hopefully, you can find some comfort, especially during such trying times.

We hope you are all healthy and that you are all safe. Happy listening!

To donate please visit our Donation Page. To learn more about the Southdale Education Fund, check out our About Us page.

Posted by: Luke Lee Young, Fundraising Committee


It’s hard to dream when you have to continue showing up at a minimum wage job, putting yourself and your family at risk, because you can’t afford not to.

It’s hard to dream when you are burning through your savings because you need to pay bills, buy food or support your family.

It’s hard to dream when you have no idea whether or not you’ll be able to afford your textbooks for your first year of College or University.

It’s hard to dream when you have to focus on survival.

For high school students planning to attend College or University, the economic disruption caused by COVID-19 carries real fear for what the future may hold, especially for those already living below the poverty line.

And even though we may be unsure of what the future holds, we want to remind the young people in our community to #keepdreaming

Join the Southdale Education Fund and donate to support students who are dreaming of their futures.

Because we understand that everyone is facing challenges, we are only asking for donations of $5, $10 or $15. We hope that you will give what you can.

About #GivingTuesdayNow

#GivingTuesdayNow is a global day of giving and unity that will take place on May 5, 2020 as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.

This global day of action will rally people around the world to tap into the power of human connection and strengthen communities at the grassroots level. We invite all Canadians to join us in demonstrating the power of kindness and generosity.

Find out more at

A Fresh New Look

A letter from our Founder, Sienna Jae Taylor

When we first launched the Southdale Education Fund it was early morning on January 22, 2020. I was adamant about launching on my 30th birthday. There was so much excitement and I was in a bit of a rush to let the community know what we had in store. At the time, the message was far more important than the look. We had no website, no branding, no logo – just a blog post on my personal website.

Since launching, we have built momentum and gained the support of our community. We have finally had the time to sit back, reflect and put together the pieces that will make up our public identity. We’ve got our website up and running, a newsletter making it’s way out the virtual doors, and finally… we have our logo.

Introducing the new and improved… Southdale Education Fund:

Not only are we thrilled to share our logo with you – but we are excited to share the inspiration behind it.

As some of you may know, the roots of the Southdale Education Fund lie within the Westminster community… and more specifically, Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School, Home of the Rams. This is not only where I spent the majority of my teenage years, it is where my mom spent her teenage years as well. And it is here that the first Southdale Education Fund bursary will be awarded.

Laurier holds a special place in my heart. It is the place where my love for learning began, where I found teachers who believed in me, where my friendships flourished, and where I began to discover who I was and how I wanted to exist in this world. Laurier introduced me to the beautiful diversity of the world. It showed me that it didn’t matter whether you lived in a big, beautiful house on the outskirts of London with everything you could possibly need, or if you lived in the subsidized housing units across the street with clothing two sizes too small and no food for lunch – we all mattered. We all deserved every chance to succeed.

I am inspired by the Ram and it’s spiralling horns. Not just because of it’s connection to Laurier, but because of what this powerful animal represents.





For me, the Ram represents the strength it takes to overcome challenge and adversity, not unlike the very students we aim to support through the Southdale Education Fund.

The star is a special addition.

During the creative process, my good friend and the artist – S – suggested the addition of the star to symbolize the hope that the Southdale Education Fund will provide for students living in poverty. This was a beautiful moment – not only do others understand the mission of this initiative, but they believe in it.

Thank you so much to S for your creativity, your time, and your belief in the Southdale Education Fund. Thank you for symbolizing our inspiration and our mission.

S is an engineer, artist, and creator. He is a Co-Founder at EXAR Studios, Co-Owner of VRcadia Technologies Inc. and Founder of Building Intrigue. You can learn more and connect with S on LinkedIn.

$1000 Awarded Spring 2020!

To all of our amazing donors and supporters we wanted to provide you with an update on the Southdale Education Fund.

We are very excited to share that thanks to your generous contributions, we are able to provide a $1000 bursary to a graduating student from Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School this spring!

We have sent our award description and character traits to the teachers at Laurier high school. They will then meet and nominate a deserving student!

This could not have been possible without you. Thank you so much for believing in the Southdale Education Fund!

Please see below for the complete award description:

Officially Pillar Members!

We are officially members of the Pillar Nonprofit Network! We know that in order for ANY initiative to succeed, you need a community to back you up.

Being a part of the Pillar community means we will have access to the greater nonprofit network in London, learning opportunities, an online community to connect with people, knowledge and resources and BONUS we’ll be able to share events and volunteer opportunities on the Pillar site:

Any upcoming volunteer opportunities with the Southdale Education Fund will be posted there! Keep your eyes peeled 👀

Thanks so much to Pillar Nonprofit Network for all you do in the community to support nonprofits and social change initiatives!

The Inspiration Behind the Fund

A letter from our Founder, Sienna Jae Taylor |

I didn’t really process that I was poor until University. I remember sitting in my first year Sociology class listening to my professor speak about wage gaps, the working poor, and poverty in London. I remember thinking “Wait a second… she’s talking about us like we’re not even here.” I sat quietly, looking at the other students around me… remembering the conversation I’d had with my first University friend about the $300 pair of sunglasses she lost, but it was okay because her dad was planning to send her allowance soon.

And just like that I understood the concept of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’… the realization of being “them” weighed heavily. I suddenly felt very alone.

I grew up in the South East end of the city, in the Westminster community, with my single mom and two of my sisters. I was, and still am, profoundly close to my best friends. I remember feeling very comfortable in the world that I lived in.

I remember the room I shared with two of my sisters in the two-bedroom apartment my grandparents built for us in their house. And I remember my mom sleeping on three small couch cushions on the floor every night when my older sister desperately wanted a bedroom to herself.

I remember what it felt like doing an inventory of what I had received for Christmas one year with friends who, for some reason, were given way more from Santa than I was.

And when I got older, I remember what if felt like trying to hide the fact that my back-to-school clothes were from Wal-Mart while my friends were wearing name brand.

I remember my sister and I making our worn down boots “waterproof” by wrapping our feet in grocery bags to keep the snow from soaking through. Necessity is the mother of invention they say.

I remember my best friend’s mom, Kathy, bringing over “extra” lasagne when things got a little bit tougher.

And I remember turning the oven on every day after school to heat up the house when the furnace broke, and laughing with my mom at the amount of layers we had to wear to keep warm while we slept that winter.

I remember my mom crying. Crying when bills were piling up, crying when she couldn’t get us the things the world told us we needed, crying because she just couldn’t get ahead.

But these were mere moments in time. And truth be told, my life was not unlike the majority of friends that I spent my time with. This was our normal. And we were happy. We had just what we needed, when we needed it, and we became more resilient for the challenges we faced.

It stopped feeling quite so normal when I reached University, however. When I decided to go to University I knew that I would receive OSAP – with an estranged Father and a family income well below the poverty line I didn’t worry about where I would get the money for school. But I don’t think I truly anticipated the level of stress that such a financial burden can cause for a young person trying to pursue their education.

While I was in school I worked two jobs for the majority of my academic career. I also began volunteering in first year and maintained a weekly gig for four years. I needed to continue working to cover my expenses, and I also knew that I was not going to graduate with the social capital that many of my peers would – I needed to build my resume and create my own networks if I was going to find a career when I was done school. Although this might appear to be a great plan on paper, it was not easy.

One night during first year when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, tear soaked notes in front of me, I remember my mom trying to console me while I cried that “University isn’t for poor people!” I decided I should drop out and apply for a program at the College because it would be more affordable, I would be done faster, and could start working full-time.

Luckily I calmed down and continued on the path that I was on. I loved school. I loved University. This was where I was supposed to be.

Nevertheless, the breakdowns continued year after year. I’d love to tell you that eventually this little ritual subsided, but the truth is, they only shifted from once a year, to once a month… every time I sit down to pay my bills.

Today is my 30th Birthday. And as the title of this post might suggest, I am 30 G’s deep… $30,000 in debt that is.

If I could go back in time to that moment that my University friend looked at me and told me I was “lucky” that I got OSAP because I had “extra money” (poor guy had his tuition fully covered by his parents) I would kick him, really hard, right in the shin. But alas… I can’t go back in time… I can’t really go anywhere whilst buried under this gigantic mound of student debt.

I know what you’re probably thinking – “But OSAP is GOOD debt”. Well I can promise you, it doesn’t feel that way. What it feels like is unfair.

It doesn’t feel fair that what I will pay in tuition will double, if not triple, by the time I can pay off my loans, simply because I grew up poor.

It doesn’t feel fair that I worked my ass off in school and have continued to work my ass off at every job I have had since, and yet I am still broke.

It doesn’t feel fair that I have to choose between enjoying life, and making the “right” financial choice – and it really doesn’t feel fair that I be judged for choosing joy every once in a while.

It doesn’t feel fair that I can’t save money for my future, for a house, or for retirement because everything I have goes to my student debt.

It doesn’t feel fair that I was promised that an education would break the cycle of poverty, and yet it seems to be the very thing that has put me in this over flowing box of the working poor.

But you know what seems even more unfair? That despite all we know and all we are capable of, there are still going to be thousands of young people with the drive and brilliance to change their lives who will not be able to get ahead. The systems in which we are living and working are set up to benefit some, while the walls others are expected to climb are being built higher and higher.

My mother did not choose to be poor. My mother’s life has been a complex tapestry of challenge after challenge – mixed in with the reality of being undervalued and underpaid – she did better than her best with what she was given.

I did not choose to be poor. Did I make all the right financial decisions? Absolutely not. My best friends could tell you stories of the countless times I bought the next round at the bar while screaming “Money isn’t real!”

Despite the torture I face every month when the bills roll in, I made a decision that I would not wait to enjoy my life or to do the very same things that many of my peers do simply because I have student debt. I refuse to be shackled to my student loans.

I also made the decision that my experiences would not be for nothing. I am not ashamed of my poverty. My reality is the outcome of a broken system – a system that values some over others.

But I think it’s time we do something about this. I decided a while back that one day, when I was financially stable, I would find a way to offer financial support to students coming from my world. Well – I’m 30 years old, and 30 G’s deep and the end is nowhere in sight. If I wait for the circumstances to be ideal, I may just be waiting forever. Meanwhile, each year that passes there are thousands of students starting school who are in need of the same support that I was.

So as this milestone Birthday was approaching, I asked myself, “What am I waiting for?” Like the London Community Foundation says… “you don’t need to be a millionaire to give back to the community.” And they are right. I don’t need to be a millionaire, all I need is purpose, focus and you, my community.

So I’m done waiting.

Today I am beyond thrilled to announce that I am launching the Southdale Education Fund. With the support of the London Community Foundation I am setting up a long-term, sustainable fund to support young people pursuing their education.

The Southdale Education Fund will exist to alleviate the financial challenges that far too many young people face while pursuing post-secondary education. Students deserve to experience the beautiful journey of learning free from the burdens of poverty.

Each year, the Southdale Education Fund will distribute at minimum a $1000 bursary to a deserving student from a single-parent family, facing financial challenges and living in the Westminster community of London, Ontario.

The bursary is intended to support students in whatever way that they need – whether it be tuition, textbooks, food, or bills (and possibly a little bit of joy once in a while).

We have the opportunity to come together as a community and make a difference. I hope that you will join me.

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