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Vari Scholar shares the profound impact George and Helen Vari made in her life


"Dr. Helen Vari truly inspired me to become the best educator I can be and I hope to inspire my young leaners to pursue their own dreams," says MA student Katie Kovacs (left), recipient of the Vari Scholarship, pictured in 2018 with Dr. Helen Vari.


Katie Kovacs knows first-hand the impact a gift can have.

In 2015, Katie was a few weeks away from withdrawing from her first year at OISE in the Master of Arts in Child Study and Education program because of financial hardships. A timely award made possible by the George and Helen Vari Foundation enabled her to continue her studies.

Thanks to the prestigious University of Toronto Vari Scholarship, Katie remained in her program – and this was momentous because of her father.

“My father had passed away just before I started school, and in a way I felt like this scholarship had somehow been my father helping me to continue following my dreams,” she said.

The Vari Scholarship honours and supports exceptional University of Toronto students who plan to pursue a career in primary or secondary teaching in Ontario.

Throughout her teacher education at OISE, Katie used her time well. In her second year, she volunteered at the Play Learning Lab, part of the Institute's award-winning Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School, and wrote two research manuscripts about play-based learning in Ontario. 

“Without Dr. Helen Vari’s support, my dreams may not have been realized,” she said.

Most special of all is the enduring connection Katie developed with Dr. Vari at the Annual Vari Scholars Awards Luncheon in 2015. "I learned of Dr. Vari’s kindness and genuine commitment to developing meaningful relationships with the students she has helped, Katie said.

She has always greeted me with open arms. I really feel that I have gained not only support, but that I have become a part of the Vari Scholar family.”

Inspired by Katie’s story? Give to OISE today and help champion our promising educators of tomorrow.