Zoe Licastro Memorial Award

The Zoe Licastro Memorial Award Fund is held at the Victoria Foundation, established on May 31, 2007. Each year an award is presented to a student at S.J. Willis Education Centre in memory of the donor advisors’ daughter, Zoe Licastro. Below is the story that the donors shared while presenting the award to the 2016 recipient this past June.

Just after her 16th birthday in 1994, our daughter, Zoe quit high school in London, Ontario to explore the world on her terms. Two years later, she arrived here in Victoria. Over the next year she developed a dream to become a sound recording engineer and in 1997, called to tell us she was going back to school to finish her high school and pursue her dream.

Two years later, June 1999,  Jennifer and I were in this very auditorium when she ­came on to this stage to receive her diploma. Excitement, Relief, Pride, Elation  – all these words fail to describe our parental feelings that night.

During that ceremony, we listened to stories of the difficult circumstances and challenges some students had to deal with and overcome to gain their diploma. It was a deeply moving evening and learning experience for us.

A week after graduation, Zoe returned home and was in London for the next 14 months. But drawn to the sea, the mountains and the natural beauty of the Island, she returned to Victoria in Sept. 2000.  Over the next 6 months her career aspirations changed – she had became fascinated with automobile mechanics. 

On Easter Sunday 2001 Zoe telephoned with great news – she had been accepted into the Heavy Motor Mechanic course at Camosun College. She was very excited. Sadly it was never to be.  Later that day, Zoe died. 

In the weeks that followed, we learned that during her first years in Victoria, Zoe experimented with drugs and had become addicted to heroin. We also became aware that she struggled with her addiction while doing her studies at S.J. Willis Education Centre and that the decision to leave Victoria for home was because she was determined to overcome her addiction.

Recalling the stories from that graduation night and knowing the challenges our daughter dealt with to graduate, Jennifer and I established the Zoe Licastro Memorial Award at S.J. Willis Education Centre.

The Zoe Licastro Memorial Award gives recognition and a financial contribution to a student who has overcome significant obstacles and adversity in their lives to graduate from the alternative education program at S.J. Willis Education Centre in Victoria BC. Jennifer and I are delighted to present this year’s winner – Kurt E. who has been accepted into the engineering program at University of Victoria for September.”  

2016 Zoe Licastro Memorial Award Winner

“Kurt is a fine young man who has worked exceptionally hard. In the past, a regular classroom did not suit his temperament or learning style. But Kurt had a deep desire to learn and to further his education. He gave his situation some serious thought, and made decisions about what he needed to do to meet his goals this year. And he has been wildly successful!! According to one of his teachers, Kurt’s level of maturity and enthusiasm in dealing with very difficult course material was truly impressive.” – Kathryn Harcourt at S.J. Willis Education Centre in Victoria, BC.