Opterus Helen Rose Awards

Opterus Rebel with a Cause Awards

Opterus is providing two scholarship awards for young women, between the ages of 18-26 and enrolled/will enrol at a Canadian post-secondary institution, who are pursuing a STEM or Arts educational path. The awards are inspired by Founder, Janet Hawkins’ mother, Dr. Helen McKilligin, and sister, Valerie Ann Hawkins.

Applications for the 2024 Rebel with a Cause Awards are open from April 15, 2024, to June 14, 2024. Be sure to apply within this period if you're interested!

About Helen Rose

Dr. McKilligin led a remarkable and groundbreaking life. She graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 1958 with a specialty in pediatrics. She was a published author, writing a book with pioneering insights into the principles of neonatal nursing in 1970. She practiced in Newfoundland at the Grace Hospital and taught as an associate professor at the medical school at Memorial University in Newfoundland. She helped form the first Family Planning Association of Newfoundland that opened a birth control centre in St. John’s, which was the first of its kind in the province. In 1980 she moved the family to Ontario and worked for the ministry of health creating groundbreaking programs in reproductive health. Before retiring she also completed her fine arts degree at the OCAD University. Helen Rose McKilligin was my mother. The Helen Rose STEM Award is dedicated to her memory.

About Valerie Ann

Valerie lived with ovarian cancer for 5 years but passed away in February 2019. She was in New York during 9/11 doing what she loved as a member of the cast of Rag Time on Broadway. I believe her cancer made her one more victim of that day. She was an incredible actor and a brilliant director. She was a part of so many productions, Les Miserables - the North American tour, Romeo and Juliet in Stratford, Anne of Green Gables in PEI and one of my favorites, Star Mites, an off-Broadway production in NYC, just to name a few. She graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and received the Lorne Greene Award for outstanding achievement in the practical and performing aspects of theatre while at Queen's. She also loved to rock and roll and sang in a local band in Stratford Ontario. And man, did she sing. We lived in California when I was 4 and she was 6. We shared a bedroom and she sang me to sleep, always Blue Spanish Eyes. She did it almost every night because she knew it made me happy. When she passed my best friend said of her; “I’ve been thinking of that idea that consciousness is like radio waves and our bodies are just a tuner. I’m thinking the cosmos just had this incredible musical source returned to it and some lucky body will get the chance to tune into sometime in the future.” I hope this award can go to someone who might be able to tune into her frequency. Valerie Ann Hawkins was my sister. The Valerie Ann Arts Award is dedicated to her memory.


Apply now for an Opterus Rebel with a Cause scholarship



A word from Opterus CEO, Janet Hawkins

young Janet Hawkins!

I'm Janet Hawkins, the CEO and co-founder of Opterus and founder of the Opterus Rebel with a Cause Scholarships. That groovy pic is of me back in the 70's. I was lucky, that even at that age, I was given the freedom to be creative, to explore, and to do things that made me happy. There were no rules around my choices. I admit, I was one of those kids that might have been seen as a little weird, but I like to think I had to grow into my kind of cool.

I am very proud that 2024 is going to be our sixth year offering these scholarships and I love that I can make these scholarships happen in the name of my mom and sister. This year we hope to continue to stimulate your creativity.

From the start, I didn't want these scholarships to be like all the others. I truly believe that putting a lot of weight into someone's grades is not the way to find the best and the brightest. People learn and express themselves in so many different ways and that is what excites me.

For this scholarship you don't have to be a straight A student who ticks all the boxes. One of the questions in the application asks you to tell us something you have achieved, that you are proud of, and why. I caution you to stay away from answering this with achieving high grades. I love that you worked hard and to do well is an amazing accomplishment, but that's not what we are looking for here. To receive this award, you must already have been accepted into a post-secondary institution. Tell me something else in your life that you are proud of, that helped shape you into the person you are today. Don't tell me you are smart, show me you are bright!

We are looking for women who can engage with us, think outside the box, and maybe surprise us. This is your opportunity to share something that is meaningful to you, something that makes you who you are. Make us laugh, make us cry, are you super artistic or musical, or do you have an unusual interest that you would like to share with us? Be creative, but most of all, just be yourself.

We know a $10,000 prize will make life easier, but will winning this award change your life? I saw a tweet from Ben Cichy, who worked for NASA at one point in his career. It said: "Got a 2.4 GPA my first semester in college. Thought maybe I wasn't cut out for engineering. Today I've landed two spacecrafts on Mars and am now designing one for the Moon. STEM is hard for everyone. Grades ultimately don't matter. Curiosity and perseverance matter." I love that. Be curious, be tenacious be a rebel! We are looking forward to learning about you.

Best of luck,



Opterus Helen Rose STEM Award - $10,000

To apply for the Helen Rose STEM Award, you must be a woman between the ages of 18-26 and plan on pursuing an education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) at an accredited Canadian university or college. The student we are looking to fund is pursuing a field of study that will help them in the future to create or contribute to a new mindset for a better world.

Example programs: Nursing, Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science, BSc in Psychology, etc.

Opterus Valerie Ann Arts Award - $10,000

To apply for the Valerie Ann Arts Award, you must be a woman between the ages of 18-26 and pursuing an education in the Arts at an accredited Canadian university or college. The student we are looking to fund is pursuing a field of study that will help them in the future to create or contribute to a new mindset for a better world. 

Example programs: Painting, Economics, BA in Psychology, History, Business, etc.

Apply now for an Opterus Rebel with a Cause scholarship