The Merit vision is to be a leading contributor of recognition and financial awards to secondary school students in high needs schools. This is accomplished by providing incentives to youth of all abilities to pursue advancement through education; to contribute to their community; and as a motivational tool for educators and parents to encourage youth to stay in school.
Many of the students that apply for the Merit Award are from diverse backgrounds and have endured considerable personal and financial hardships.
The Merit Award is a grassroots organization, started in 1996 by a group of Toronto residents who felt it was important to support and encourage high school students to stay in school. The late Mr. Justice John Sopinka of the Supreme Court of Canada was the first Honourary Chair of the program. The first bursaries were awarded to 20 high school students in the fall of 1996. Since 1996, the Merit Award has provided 2,174 bursaries to high school students in Toronto.
Merit works closely with 45 high-needs Toronto secondary schools (public and Catholic) and 19 alternative education sites who help identify eligible students to apply for a Merit Award. Bursary awards are available for $500 for those returning to secondary school, and $750 or $2,000 for those pursuing post-secondary education. In 2017, Merit distributed $122,750 and inspired 153 students in Toronto to advance their education. 96% of students who receive a Merit Award proceed to the next year of school.