BY HEATHER WOOD
Without Knowledge Quest, there are hundreds of Bermudians who might not have the career they do today.
Since 2000 the charity has offered scholarships “for academically capable yet financially needy” students.
To be considered they must have completed a two-year programme at the Bermuda College while working; part of their income must have gone towards family expenses.
As far as scholarships go, it was unlike any others known to Knowledge Quest’s founding donors, Cynthia Cox, Ricky Lines, Gigi Barit, Kathy Lines and Barry Brewer. They came up with the idea after talk at a dinner party turned to the important role education had played in developing their careers. They then agreed to each give $2,000 a year to help a Bermudian student go to university.
Three people applied that first year.
During the interview process, and on speaking with schools and the Bermuda College, the group discovered the need was far greater than they thought and began looking for additional support.
“We got a lot of corporate help. We got XL to join in and Bacardi and a number of other different corporate clients plus a ton of individual donors,” said Ms Lines, who serves as co-president with Ms Cox. With them on the board is Mr Lines, Ms Barit and Fiona Luck.
“In 2002 we became a registered charity and just kind of took off running. These are the kids that are probably the first in their family to go to university; who are holding jobs while they’re in school; B students who they were accepted to universities or colleges and needed funding.
“So that is kind of our target market. We do ask for financial needs forms on our application. We do look fully at their finances as a big qualification for getting our scholarship, just to differentiate us from many of the others that are out there.”
The scholarships are not intended to cover the full cost of an overseas education in a given year.
Said Ms Lines: “We rarely, if ever, fully fund a student. We find it’s always good if they have a little skin in the game. So they generally have a few different scholarships. They don’t get a full ride from us.
“They are required to apply to at least five other scholarships along with ours and most of our students apply to at least ten or more; they apply to everything they can. We wait until they hear back from all the other scholarships, to see if they’ve been successful.”
Ultimately Knowledge Quest targets students who impressed them during the interview process but were unsuccessful in securing funding elsewhere.
The charity is constantly on the lookout for sponsorship from individuals and also corporate donors. A partnership with the Green Family Scholarship has provided a huge boost; in order to be considered for that award, students must also have applied to Knowledge Quest.
“Andrew Green sits in on all our interviews with us and they take a group of students too – generally about ten a year. And that grows. So to the same ten – for the two, three, four years they have the scholarship – every year he does an additional ten.”
More than 100 students apply every year; roughly 60 of them are interviewed. Of those that are successful some are awarded assistance from the Green Family Scholarship, some from Knowledge Quest and some are aided by both.
“Working with them has just been amazing. They’ve really opened up a lot of venues for a lot of students,” Ms Lines said.
“They 100 per cent have been a huge backbone of the whole Knowledge Quest and helping us move forward and creating the numbers that we’re able to go ahead with.”
The group has helped about 220 students over the past 21 years and awarded a record 43 scholarships for the 2020/21 school year, 24 of which went to new faces.
“This year was quite different obviously, with Covid,” Ms Lines said. “We were able to help more students because a lot were doing their courses online so we didn’t have to help them with room and board.
“So you’re just strictly talking tuition which, while still high, isn’t as break the bank as going in full with everything else.”
Although Covid-19 prevented it from happening last year, Knowledge Quest holds parties at Christmas and in the summer which scholarship recipients are required to attend if here.
“If you’re a graduate we request you to attend and we hope and we do get a lot of the graduates coming back,” Ms Lines said.
With donors from various industries present, it offers a chance for the students to network and say thank you. It also gives them the opportunity to talk with the mentors who have volunteered their time to advise on course selection or areas of their education.
“It’s a good training for the next step, which is going to be interviewing,” Ms Lines said. “We don’t go out and find them jobs. We work on the education part and hopefully a few small life skills: look them in the eye, thank them, always do a thank you e-mail. Little things like that.”
With an eye to the future, the hope is that graduates will one day take over the running of the charity but there is the understanding that “it’s a big commitment”, Ms Lines said.
“When you mention all that is involved and then you say, ‘By the way you won’t get paid …’ it’s hard. It’s a lot to take on.
“It’s busy. But it’s also very rewarding. I never thought 20-plus years later we are still doing this and we’ve helped so many students. Our hope is to finally get a board in place that can take over and do all the things that we’re doing.”
For more information or to make a donation, visit knowledgequest.bm