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Founded on love and loss, alumna’s organization helps students pursue higher education

Newsroom authorby Vitusha OberoiJul 31, 2023
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The day her son Lloyd Christopher graduated from flying school is etched in Jean Skeen’s memory. She bought him a graduation ring, a memento from a stall that was selling many such items to new graduates and their beaming families. "I was so proud that he had become a pilot and I reminded him how he had always wanted to be one and that he never let go of his dream. As we were talking, he said, 'Mom, I know what I will get inscribed on my ring – The Dream Never Dies .'"

Jean and son

Alumna Jean Skeen with her son Lloyd Christopher at her graduation.

"My foundation is named after the inscription on my son’s graduation ring."

Twenty-seven years after her own graduation from Sheridan, Skeen (Computer Fundamentals ’96) returned to College this summer, to give wings to the dreams of 30 school children at an aviation camp on Davis Campus, organized by the foundation she created following her son’s untimely death, The Dream Never Dies Foundation.

The Edge Meeting Centre at Davis was abuzz with excitement as the students, aged 12-18, attended a workshop facilitated by the Urban Pilots Network, a not-for profit organization of commercial pilots that works with Skeen’s foundation to help youth nurture their interest in aviation. A miniature aircraft and a pilot’s cap, symbols of the children’s aspirations, rested on a table while a pilot explained the concepts of aviation to the kids. All the while, Skeen stood watching from the sidelines, stepping in to help when needed. The class was a precursor to a much-coveted field trip to Air Canada Jazz and the Buttonville Airport over the next two days, culminating in the camp’s high point – a flight aboard a small aircraft for the young hopefuls who were brought together by their desire that one day, they too would rule the skies as pilots.


Jean Skeen at the aviation camp organized by The Dream Never Dies Foundation on Davis Campus.

Foundation in son's memory

Theirs is a dream Skeen holds dear to her heart. Her own son Lloyd was driven by it from the time he was four years old and boarded a plane to Jamaica to meet his grandparents. Skeen says she was surprised he continued to nurture his ambition to become a pilot even as he grew older. "I did not hear of many Black kids coming to their parents and telling them they wanted to do aviation. But to encourage him, I got him admitted to the Turner Secondary School, the only school at the time in Peel Region that had an aviation program ."

"I decided to establish one scholarship in my son's name at his college. Then friends and family joined in, offering scholarships not just in aviation, but in medicine, law and other professional fields where the cost of the programs keeps out deserving students."

Lloyd pursued his passion, studying airport management at Georgian College and then moving on to Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where he worked part-time while studying to become a pilot. He got his commercial pilot’s licence, returned home to Canada, and took up a job in maintenance at Pearson Airport, while waiting for an opportunity to launch his career as a pilot. But fate intervened and he died suddenly.

Skeen’s foundation, created after Lloyd’s death, is the homage of a mother to the memory of a son gone too soon, her grief having found an antidote in giving to others. “Lloyd was a very sensitive young man. He felt deeply about those who can’t achieve their goals as they don’t have the financial support to see them through graduation. Before he passed on, he often spoke of his dream to create a scholarship that would help students who, like himself, pushed through every challenge through determination and faith,” Skeen recalls.

Scholarships help postsecondary students

For the past 20 years, Skeen has been working tirelessly to keep her son’s dream alive. The camp is just one of the ways in which she reaches out to youth who lack the resources to pursue higher education. So far, her foundation has helped 216 postsecondary students with financial support through scholarships, bursaries, and grants.

“This work is my passion. Every day I look forward to doing something towards the foundation. I'm speaking from the heart to say that even though I lost my son, there’s not a day when I wake up and I'm not happy to be doing this.”

“It started with one scholarship in 2003, the year my son died. In times of deep personal grief, you want to do something to honour the memory of your loved one. I decided to establish a scholarship in Lloyd’s name at his college. Then friends and family joined in, offering scholarships not just in aviation, but in medicine, law and other professional fields where the cost of the programs keep out deserving students. We began to offer scholarships and bursaries through colleges and community organizations, and finally I created the foundation as a registered charity,” says Skeen.

Skeen started her foundation as a grassroots effort. Till her retirement 10 years ago, she held a full-time job in the accounting department of a company and spent all her spare time to build the foundation. Using her Brampton home as an office and the many skills she says she learned in the Computer Fundamentals program at Sheridan, she sent off letters to appeal to prospective donors, networked with organizations pursuing similar goals, and reached out into the community for support. Due to her efforts, The Dream Never Dies Foundation has established scholarships available through Georgian College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Mississauga Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Crawford Adventist Academy, Peel School Board, Peel Children's Aid Society, and the Urban Pilots Network.

Foundation’s support changing lives

In Skeen’s words, her foundation is “Changing lives, one scholarship at a time.” Dr. Tshea Dowers, who is in her final year of a Diagnostic Radiology residency at the University of Toronto, says while growing up as an immigrant in Canada, she experienced firsthand what it is like not to be afforded the same opportunities as most. With the support of the foundation, she was able to complete her degree in pharmacology at McGill University and go to a medical school in California.

“The journey to becoming a physician is one filled with countless expenses and tuition costs. Without the assistance of the Dream Never Dies Foundation, I would not be where I am today. I am so thankful for their support in helping a student like me to aspire and achieve these heights,” she says.

Another recipient of the foundation’s scholarship, Allison Couch, left her job as a flight attendant with Emirates Airlines, choosing to enrol full-time in a flight training program. She completed her program with the support of the scholarship Skeen’s foundation offers through the Urban Pilots Network, and is currently a pilot with Canada Jetlines, flying an Airbus A320 aircraft to destinations in Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean.

For Skeen, the success of the students supported by her foundation reinforces her belief that her son’s dream would not die. “This work is my passion. Every day, I look forward to doing something towards the foundation. I'm speaking from the heart to say that even though I lost my son, there’s not a day when I wake up and I'm not happy to be doing this. I know the type of person he was; he would be happy that we're helping others.”

Sheridan students are eligible for scholarships offered by The Dream Never Dies Foundation in Memory of Lloyd Christopher Skeen:


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