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Fundraising for the Future

“I just think it’s so, so important to continue to advocate and pay it forward to people who are not as fortunate as we are. I really do believe that from the bottom of my heart,” she says.

 As a professor – and 1988 graduate of – Sheridan’s Office Administration, Health Services, program, Stevens sees student financial need first-hand. Each year, Raise presents the Women’s Leadership Award to a student from the Pilon School of Business. Stevens says she’s often inspired by the winners, in particular the 2017 recipient, Laura DiViesti, an Office Administration grad of 2018. DiViesti served in student government, and during her time at Sheridan she worked tirelessly to ensure all students felt accepted and welcomed on campus.

 “Receiving this award was confirmation for me that I’m on the right path,” DiViesti says. “‘It motivated me to continue to do what I’m doing and continue to advocate for students.”

 Helping people keep working for change is the reason why Stevens wanted to start Raise in the first place. She first met her co-founder, Catherine Statton, during graduate school, where they began talking about how best to empower women leaders. The answer they came up with was to support them in their postsecondary studies.

 “There are so many people out there that are so worthy,” she says. “They just either can’t afford to go to school.”

 Each year, Raise holds a fundraiser in honour of International Women’s Day.  Those funds are then funnelled into scholarships like the one at Sheridan, along with four other awards for students in health-related fields who have demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities. One winner, for instance, developed a mouth guard that ALS patients can use to communicate once the disease prevents them from speaking. 

 Stevens’ interest in supporting health leaders also comes from her own background. In addition to her work at Sheridan, she is also a registered nurse who works in the sexual assault centre at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga. She says being a nurse has exposed her to many vulnerable populations who need help – and she wants to celebrate those who are stepping up to the challenge to provide that assistance.

 “When people are vulnerable, that’s when you need to reach out,” she says. “We’ve got to create a better sense of community. If one little thing like Raise can do it, then anyone can do it.”