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About Us

Merit was started in 1996 by a group of Toronto residents, who believed in the  importance of supporting  and inspiring grade 11 and 12  high school students to stay in school and pursue  post secondary education.


The late Mr. Justice John Sopinka of the Supreme Court of Canada was the first Honorary Chair of the program.

The Merit team works with 82 schools in the GTA to reward students who have demonstrated a commitment to their communiity and their academics in the face of adversity.


We make character count.


From the first 20 bursaries awarded 26 years ago to the 275 awarded last year, our mission continues to grow. 

Students Walking Up Stairs

of the Matter

Low income is a barrier

A student in a family at the bottom 10% of the income range are  3x more likely to drop out of high school.

Tuition costs have increased in Toronto higher than inflation. More than 25 % of students graduate with $25,000 in debt.

Background is a barrier

Only 61% of students in single parent families, attend post secondary schools.

Many students are disconnected from necessary supports and have no role models for higher education.

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Ethnicity is a barrier

Racialized groups of Black and Latin American students lag behind all other races in attending post secondary schools.

Covid 19
has created
a deeper divide.

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Low income relief

50% of recipients are from families with annual income

of less than $40K.

Diverse recipients

75%  of recipients are visible minorities. 80% are first or second generation Canadian.

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Volunteerism plussed

Recipients play a major role on our committees and other community organizations.

High graduation rates

98% of recipients graduate. This rate is higher than the provincial average.


Message from
the President



GTA students

should have equal access to post-secondary education, regardless of where they live, their life circumstances, ethnicity or household income.

The Greater Toronto Area is gifted with a diverse population. Higher education is the key to our success – as individuals and as a community. 

MERIT wants to put that key in EVERYONE’S hands, so that ANYONE can open ANY door.

It is for that reason that we have in place an ambitious growth vision that will see us grow to offer all students in the most challenged schools in Durham, York, Toronto, Peel, Halton, and Hamilton the opportunity to become a Merit recipient by 2030.  

Brian Smeenk

Today our  hands-on leadership team is made up of 13 Board of Directors and a full time Director of Operations. They are supported by an Alumni Council of 12 past recipients and  over 300 active volunteers, engaged alumni , and donor individuals and partners.

The Merit



The Alumni Advisory Council

The Alumni Council are a group of 12 past recipients who partner with a board lead to provide support, council and recommendations to help grow the Merit organization.

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"Merit is a path to a bursary...and a path to know how far your strengths will take you- Merit Cares".

Alif Munim

Merit Award Recipient