Ozias' problem solving super power enables him to support himself and his education

Although only 27, Ozias approaches life and finances like a wise elder.  He knows he has to make them work to build the life he wants but he is in no way driven by money. Ozias is able to focus on his passions through the development of what I would call fierce problem solving and hustling skills.

Meet Ozias

  • Single 27 year old living independently in a 1 bedroom apartment

  • 1st year university student

  • Monthly living expenses of $1,800 including rent, food and transport

  • Monthly earnings of $1,500

  • Working 25 hours part time per week

  • Expected OSAP upon completion of university: $30,000

Ozias was born in a country facing significant civil unrest.  His parents were not rich although they did invest in his education. Ozias went to university to study journalism and became an active voice speaking up against human rights violations and corruption.  His advocacy work made him a target putting both himself and his family at risk.  Fearing his life, Ozias went into hiding and his parents used up a large portion of their financial reserve paying bribes to hide Ozias and get him out of the country.

Ozias arrived in Canada in 2012.  He had no family or friends here.  He ultimately ended up living in a shelter for the first 5 months of his life in Toronto and then was able to secure supportive transitional housing for the following 10 months. To say his life was difficult is a gross understatement.

Since being given the opportunity to come to Canada, Ozias has demonstrated unwavering commitment to succeed.  With a deep understanding of the costs that his family bore to support him and a passion for human rights, Ozias started by doing volunteer work at a non-profit organization.  Given his journalistic background, he worked on communications and expanded to helping wherever he could, eventually becoming part of the youth network at the centre. 

Ozias worked hard and built great relationships with the team.  When funding was available, he was hired as an events coordinator part time and then as an art coordinator and in research development. Through these positions, Ozias began to understand how the organization was funded and how grants could support innovative work.  Inspired, he developed ideas for arts and youth programming, collaborated with the internal team to write grants and secure funding for new contracts for himself.   

Ozias says that his work with the social service organization was a blessing.  He met a breadth of people, made connections, learned about opportunities and it was really a home away from home. 

He worked at the centre for 5 years.  Given the non-profit nature of his employer and his work being part time, Ozias was earning $20 - $30 k annually, definitely not enough to live on.  Given this, he supplemented his income with a series of side hustles.  He says he has probably done everything.  Ozias would get any license he could to make him as attractive as possible to part time employment.  If you need heavy machinery operated on Saturday and someone to bartend at an event on Sunday, Ozias is your man. 

The side hustles combined with his job at the centre meant he was working 15-18 hours a day.  Given how hard it was for Ozias to earn money, he became very clear about what was and was not important to him.  He says now he has developed a habit of only spending on things that are necessary. 

After the transitional housing, Ozias was able to rent an apartment independently in a not so great area of Toronto.  Throughout this entire time period, Ozias was dreaming about going back to school.  He was more and more passionate about helping people and the field of social work.  His only barrier was cost.

Ozias started looking at funding opportunities for school and found a scholarship that would cover two years of education.  Realizing the importance of this opportunity, he called the organization, arranged a meeting, sought to understand what they were looking for, invested heavily in his application and then had friends review it.  I think it was all the hard work he put in that made Ozias successful and enabled him to start at York University 6 years after arriving in Canada.

 Right now Ozias goes to school full time and is studying human rights. In addition he continues his hustles.  He organizes social and cultural events on the weekends.  He very much enjoys going out but realizes that it is a costly activity. Given his commitment to his goals, the need to sustain himself financially on low income while going to school and his ability to problem solve, he realized that if he was involved in organizing social activities hew would not have to pay for them.  He also drives part time with Uber and makes sure to invest time in what he is passionate about.  He has created and is running an all-volunteer drop in program for youth in his neighbourhood.

Ozias, has a long term vision of doing meaningful work that he is passionate about, helping send money to his family back home and sharing his success with others.  He sees finances as a tool to enabling that and is adept at making them work for him.  He is currently juggling many balls he cares about and is thinking about pursuing a law degree.   

There is no doubt that Ozias is exceptional at developing strategies that enable him to secure the money he needs to get to his goals. There is also no questioning the amount of hard work Ozias has put in.  From a systems perspective, I can’t help but think how we might make Ozias’ level of success possible for a greater number of students passionate about doing good work for society.