By Richelle Harper : A post‐secondary education does not have to be synonymous with student debt. This is something 24 year-old Brittany Palmer is working to show high school students across the province. As a grade 12 student at Windsor Secondary in 2005, Palmer feared scholarships were impossible but reluctantly began the scholarship process at her mother’s urging. She was successful. In June 2009, Palmer graduated debt-free with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication from Simon Fraser University by winning more than $56,000 in scholarships.
On a mission to make scholarships approachable for students, Palmer created her company Unlock your Future: The Key to Scholarships. Traveling to secondary schools and conferences throughout the province, Palmer delivers an in‐depth scholarship seminar to illustrate funding opportunities and provide a step‐by‐step program to access them. Using her personal experience paired with her extroverted personality, Palmer makes the scholarship process exciting. A testament to the Unlock your Future program is Palmer’s younger brother, Bo, who graduated in 2007 with $67,000 in scholarships after applying the skills and guidelines from UYF.
Palmer attributes her success as a youth leader to her community involvement: a staple throughout her life. A familiar face at the Junior Black Achievement Awards in the early 2000s, Palmer received 12 JBAAs over the course of her high school career as well as the JBAA Scholarship. By the age of 21, Palmer had graduated from university and was in the second year of operating her own business as a young entrepreneur. In April 2012, Palmer was recognized with the Youth Entrepreneur Award at the 17th Annual Cultural DIVERSEcity Awards: an event that celebrates forward-thinking local business owners.
At the heart of Palmer’s business is the Unlock your Future scholarship seminar. Unlock your Future was born when Palmer was asked by her high school to speak to the new graduating class and share her scholarship journey. What originally began as a few over-head slides slides has, over the last seven years, evolved into an hour length professional seminar presentation. Palmer has toured across British Columbia and guided thousands of students, parents and teachers through her step-by-step system for approaching the scholarship process. As Palmer notes, “The scholarship process can seem daunting. Our mission is to help students see post-secondary education as an attainable opportunity rather than a daunting financial obstacle.” During the seminar, Palmer not only guides her audience through a system for tackling scholarships but also debunks common myths. “There is this misconception of what constitutes a ‘scholarship winner’: you do not have to be a straight A student to win scholarships. There are truly scholarships for everyone and everything, it is simply a matter of knowing how to approach it.” Over the course of seven years, Palmer has not only grown the seminar but has expanded the business as a whole. She also offers private consultation sessions and has written and produced an official Unlock your Future Scholarship Workbook and Kit that accompanies the program, which she sells at her presentations and online.
However, what Palmer states is the most important aspect of her company is community involvement: “I pride myself on being a community-minded individual and it was important to me to carry that same philosophy into my company.” Unlock your Future began as a community project in 2005 and evolved into a business in 2008. Since then, Palmer has built a business that is intrinsically linked into community initiatives.
The Unlock your Future websites features a Student Resource Centre to assist students through the scholarship process. This includes relevant websites, a diagram on how to get involved in their school and community, as well as a scholarship application checklist. The major component of the Resource Centre is a Scholarship Calendar created annually and updated throughout the course of the school year in order to provide a simple starting point for students. Palmer also offers free writing workshops throughout the school year as a way to alleviate some of that stress that often accompanies the writing process and provide students with constructive feedback. In 2009, Palmer launched the Unlock your Future Scholarships administered directly through her business. Open to students who have participated in an aspect of the program, Palmer has presented the Unlock your Future Scholarships to nine students over the last three years.
An avid supporter of youth involvement, Palmer strives to motivate students to become involved in their communities. She provides students with resources to connect them to volunteering opportunities as well as teach a program on how to create their own community or school project. One student can make an incredible impact and Palmer demonstrates to students how they can transform their passion into a project by taking the initiative to make a difference.
It is clear that Palmer has continued to evolve through her journey of leadership and community involvement and has dedicated herself to helping students succeed. For more information on Unlock your Future’s services, visit www.keytoscholarships.com.