By Yara Kashlan and Ramisha Farooq
The Ontario government will waive student loan payments for one full year after study completion for new graduates who choose to volunteer at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
In a move to ease student pressure in paying off Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans, new and returning students who volunteer for the games will also be able to receive increased OSAP loans since they will spend their summer volunteering instead of seeking employment.
Toronto is the hosting the 2015 Pan/Parapan Am games, the third -largest international multi-sport games in the world. Approximately 4,500 students will benefit from the program.
“The enhancements to OSAP are creating a wonderful opportunity to encourage students across Ontario to get involved in the Toronto 2015 games,” David Peterson, chair of the Pan Am organizing committee, said in a statement.
As the largest multi-sport event to be held in Ontario, the games will need approximately 20,000 volunteers to help organize and execute events.
“The 2015 games are a oncein a-lifetime experience and an opportunity for Ontario’s youth to get involved, gain specialized training and earn transferable workplace skills that will serve them long after the games have drawn to a close,” Michael Chan, the minister responsible for the 2015 games, said.
“This is the power of sport hosting – maximizing meaningful opportunities for Ontarians while creating a lasting legacy that will benefit the province well beyond 2015.”
According to a press release, the plan is part of a $1.9-million initiative that ensures everyone across the province benefits from the games.
With just over 500 days until Toronto hosts the games, Ryerson is also going to be part of the city’s initiative by hosting basketball games in the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
“We are extremely excited [for] the opportunity to welcome North and South America to our city and our university,” Keith Baulk, general manager of the MAC, said.
Ryerson’s newly renovated MAC, formerly Maple Leaf Gardens, has been chosen as one of the host venues for the games.
“When Ryerson U had the vision for the venue, athletic director Ivan Joseph recognized the quality of the building would make it a perfect fit as a host venue for the Pan Am games,” Baulk said. “He approached the organizers of the games with the idea and they immediately added it as host site for one of the Pan Am sports.”
Erin McGinn, the assistant vicepresident of communications at Ryerson, said there was always a desire among students and staff to get involved with the games.
“Ryerson has a mandate to be involved in our city and our community,” McGinn said. “[It’s] a great opportunity for students, staff and alumni to be involved in an initiative for our city.”
The games will be held in July and early August 2015, giving the Ryerson community many opportunities to be involved.
“Changing OSAP to encourage students and new graduates to volunteer at the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games will help them make a lasting impact on their communities, build valuable skills for the future and enjoy an experience of a lifetime,” Brad Duguid, minister of training, colleges and universities, said.
Staff and students also recognize that the games are good for the university’s reputation.
“It is one of the biggest events, if not the biggest that Toronto and the greater area have hosted,” Chris Drew, Ryerson alumnus and board member on the Pan Am Community Engagement Council, said.
First-year biomedical science student Ryan Peterson is happy with the government’s decision.
“It’s a great way to get students involved in the community. It will also help students [to] be able to afford education, overall,” Peterson said.
Every major event we host builds credibility on a national and international level for Ryerson and the MAC, Baulk said.