YWCA Hamilton is thrilled to share the winner of this year’s Olga Cloke Bursary, Jessica Vinluan!
Jessica, one of the co-founders of Filipinas of HamOnt and a 2020 Women of Distinction nominee, is passionate about education, the arts, and the tech world. She is a graduate of Brock University’s Concurrent Education program and recently competed a course in software engineering.
Jessica will now be awarded $750 to help put towards the tuition costs of her education degree and her software engineering course.
“I’m just really thrilled and excited,” she said. “With so many changes and transitions in terms of my career, this was really fantastic.”
The Olga Cloke Bursary is awarded each year to a promising student to help fund her post-secondary education. Any young woman who is a resident of Hamilton, a current student, in financial need, and entering a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree program is eligible to apply.
Jessica began her career path as an educator, but found it difficult to get a foothold after graduation due to teachers strikes and the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, she took a job working with the Hamilton Arts Council – a decision that opened doors to a new career path.
Jessica acted as the chair of the community steering committee for a project called the Arty Crowd, a centralized hub for artists, arts organizations, and arts lovers in the Greater Hamilton Area. This role led her to collaborate with web developers and other important stakeholders within the community – and ignited a new passion for software engineering.
“I realized there’s a lot of barriers and a lot of challenges in digital spaces that I hadn’t even considered,” she said. “I wanted to create more accessible spaces in ways that were more representatives of the folks that were using them.”
Now, Jessica says she’s excited to pursue a career that combines her love of education, tech, and art, that helps reimagine a more inclusive tech world that values creativity, dialogue, and collaboration.
“I want to work within tech spaces that are still based in education and the arts – ideally, that looks like working for an organization that focuses on creating inclusive spaces,” she said.
In receiving this award, Jessica becomes part of a legacy begun by Olga Cloke, the bursary’s namesake. Before Olga’s death in 1974, she acted as chair of the YWCA Hamilton Building Campaign, and was a past District Commissioner of the Hamilton Girl Guides Association, and held leadership positions in the Zonta Club. The Olga Cloke Bursary was established by the Cloke Family in 1971 to celebrate Olga’s 75th birthday. After Olga’s passing, YWCA Hamilton established a fund with the Zonta Club of Hamilton 1 to continue her contributions to our community.
Congratulations, Jessica, and best of luck with your new career path!