Higher Ed Points Hero: Shelley Clayton

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Suzanne Tyson first met Shelley Clayton, Director, Financial Aid at the University of New Brunswick at a CASFAA conference in Ottawa. Shelley had invited Suzanne to speak about sources of scholarships and other money for school. Turns out Shelley was a one-woman “matching engine” herself, having helped thousands of UNB students and many of her nieces and nephews find scholarship money for their post-secondary education.

Suzanne quickly learned that Shelley is a Big Thinker, a dot-connector and a “Do-er” – she never shoots down an idea, always see the big picture, and comes up with exceptionally creative ways to get things done! Shelley is a HEP Super Hero because she is a key reason the Program exists today. She was the first person to hear about the concept and since that day she’s been the #1 Facilitator and Head Cheerleader for Higher Ed Points. Thank you Shelley!

We asked her some questions and felt her answers, below, were perfect as they were…allow us to introduce you Shelley Clayton:

Q. How many students (outside of your role as Director of Financial Aid at UNB) have you helped find money to pay for school?

A. Wow, that is a hard answer as I have been Director, Financial Aid at UNB for the past 17 years. I have assisted tens of thousands—maybe even higher—in the financial planning and preparation of post-secondary studies.   I have addressed regional, national and international conferences on planning for post-secondary education. I have assisted many friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances with their financial planning. Where and whenever possible, I try and help all with questions surrounding the financing of their educational goals and career paths. I strongly believe in accessing the myriad of supports available from CRA (income tax credits), Canada Learning Bond (CLB), RESPs, TFSAs, government student loans/grants, apprentice loans, scholarship, bursaries, private donors, bank funding and support available through a variety of regional and national associations. HigherEdPoints is now another valuable tool in an array of funding opportunities for PSE.

Q. In your career, are there any individual stories that stand out? Any students that have gone on to be big-time or medium time successful—and to give back—because of the assistance?

A. One story stands out in my mind. I had a student return to New Brunswick (from his home province of Ontario) to visit with me three years after he graduated. He told me that he wanted me to know how much my emotional support mattered to him during his program of study. When he first arrived at UNB, he came into the Financial Aid Office with his Dad. He could hardly speak to me as he was very shy and timid. He disclosed at the initial meeting that he had a permanent disability.

His parents were very worried leaving him in another province without their support. I took him under my wing and sent him e-mails, asked him to drop in to my office weekly and just kept in general contact throughout his degree. When he graduated, he wrote me a beautiful thank you note– it took my breath away.

He stated that he had returned to New Brunswick to meet with me and let me know how very happy he was with his life. He further stated that his life during his degree was extremely difficult and he then let me know how often he had thought of suicide. He said that just by reaching out to him, he felt that he mattered. I remember the day distinctly because I was a little bit embarrassed by his comments, so I said something that minimized (may have even dismissed in my embarrassment over the compliment) my impact to his life. He then grabbed my hand and made me look him in the eye and said Shelley during the saddest time of my life, your support was the lifeline that I needed. I just wanted to say thank you. He gave me a gift and a huge hug and we both cried. It reminded me that it is often the kind things, the little ways we reach out to people, that matter the most in life.

Q. What are some of the many huge undertakings you’ve spearheaded in your career? What motivated you to tackle them?

A. I surround myself with people who can see “big picture” possibilities. I am so thankful for the many people who have helped me during my career, my community, CASFAA, government agencies, non-profit associations, mentors, peers, etc. No man is an island is indeed my motto.

Here are a couple events that I feel very proud about:

  • When I was 21, I started the Dartmouth Literacy Network—believe it or not—I was the Executive DirectorJ. I was young, enthusiastic and so sure that I had a great idea. Using the original Laubach instructional program ‘Each One Teach One’ method developed by Frank C. Laubach, I developed a literacy program for at-risk adults. I went to the government, even held a fundraising party in my 8’ X 10’ office, and low and behold obtained funding. In my mind, it was simple, people needed help and I knew about a reading system that could help. I became certified as a Laubach Trainer and then trained volunteers. The program has been running ever since and it is still in existence today.

 

  • I worked with a fabulous professor at UNB, Sandra Latchford. I idolized Sandra (still do), as I had never met such a student-centred professor. She gave freely of her time, resources and support. She was (is) a hard act to follow—even in her retirement she is so generous with her time and energy. She was very frustrated one day with the lack of support for students with permanent disabilities at UNB. She and I sat down together and envisioned what this support would look like and created a document entitled “Centre for Excellence”. We took this document out on a government roadshow and successfully received $249,000.00 in support from 2002-2005. Although the name has now changed to the Student Accessibility Centre (SAC) and the Centre now receives regular university funding from UNB—it first started with a vision.

 

  • Although this did not assist me with my career; in my 40’s I started my first dance class. I grew up with limited funding and never an opportunity to dance. As life progressed and I started my family, there was never enough “extra” to think about my dreams, I focused on my child and my great niece (who I raised for 12 years), daycare, bills, etc.—the everyday finance drudgery. I am so very pleased I never gave up on my dream and vision to dance. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but, it was a vision I could not get out of my head, so I auditioned and got into the Senior Hip Hop Group. While most of the dancers are substantially younger than me (grin), it taught me that there is no time limit on reaching for your dreams—they just might happen—if you dare. I know I am not a kid anymore, but, I am having the time of my life and I hope that I will be blessed enough to dance for a very long time.

Paying It Forward. We asked Shelley what she’d ask our Higher Ed Points community for if she could. Here’s her list:

  • Free Aeroplan Miles for students without sufficient resources to fly home at Christmas;
  • Free Aeroplan Miles for graduate students who cannot afford to fly to conferences to present their research findings;
  • Free Aeroplan Miles in general for all students to attend leadership-based conferences—paying it forward.

 

If you can help, feel free to get in touch with Shelley directly at: clayton@unb.ca

 

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