Opterus is providing 2 scholarship awards for young women, between the ages of 16-28 and enrolled/will enroll 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.

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.

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.

Opterus Helen Rose STEM Award - $10,000
The Helen Rose STEM Award,is available to women between the ages of 16-28 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.

Opterus Valerie Ann Arts Award - $10,000
The Valerie Ann Arts Award, is available to women between the ages of 16-28 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.

Applications for 2022 will be accepted the end of April 2022
Please check back for submission instructions at that time


Sara G. Parchello
Partner, Bennett Jones LLP

Sara has an employment and labour focused legal practice, with considerable understanding of the retail, hospitality, and mining industries. She is a specialized resource for HR professionals and in-house counsel generalists to consult on employment-related issues. Sara is regularly engaged by clients to provide respect in the workplace training with a focus on employer obligations under the Occupational Health & Safety Act and the Human Rights Code.
Prior to joining Bennett Jones, Sara was Vice President & Associate General Counsel at Hudson's Bay Company and was previously was an associate at another leading Canadian law firm. She is also an advisory board member of Practical Law Canada and a member of the ACO Human Resources Committee.
At the University of Ottawa, Sara earned the Beament Green Prize in Advocacy, the Maritime Law Book Ltd. Scholarship, and the Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP Prize. Sara also completed the Business Leadership for Women Lawyers through the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

Nicole Durrant
Manager, Access to Information & Privacy/Festival Co-Ordinator

Nicole works in Public Affairs at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Her time is split between handling Access to Information and Privacy requests for English Services and managing CBC Television's participation in film and video festivals. She has also served on the national board of the Employee Assistance Program and has volunteered many years on internal and external charity campaigns.

Kristina Garrels, MD
Fellow, Clinical Informatics

Kristina grew up in the small town of Coboconk, Ontario. She has been a practicing urologist on both sides of the Canada/US border since 2001. She is an advocate for women’s health and developed a clinic specializing in women’s pelvic floor health. An enthusiastic lifelong learner, she always has a book or 2 on the go. Recognizing the future of healthcare will increasingly involve technology, she embarked on a 2 year training program in Clinical Informatics in June 2018. Despite her best efforts, she remains easily distracted by good food, good wine, good company and ice cream.

Lisa Britton-Poppler
Senior Account Relationship Manager, Opterus Inc.

Lisa is a Senior Account Relationship Manager at Opterus and has more than 7 years’ experience in global account management and enterprise sales in the SaaS space. Through her career she has been collaboratively working with some of the world’s top global brands – such as Under Armour, Nike, Fossil and Ralph Lauren – to optimize their usage of technology and deliver real, and positive, retail operational changes within their organizations. This passion for positive change also drives her curiosity for green alternatives for all products in her and her family’s lives. Outside of work she loves spending time outdoors (with her family or on a good golf course) or enjoying a glass of wine with a book or new muffin recipe.

Janet Hawkins
President & CEO Opterus Inc.

Janet is president, CEO and co-founder of Opterus Inc., whose cloud-based software solutions simplify retail communications. Janet has more than 20 years of experience working in the Retail industry. Before launching Opterus in 2006, she held management roles with NCR and SAP where she focused on creating alliances, building partner programs and business development. She is also an advisor for the Canaccord Genuity Advisory Program for Women Entrepreneurs. When she isn’t solving problems for retailers and forging strategic alliances, Janet enjoys hiking near her Toronto-area home, painting and creating mosaic glass art, and traveling to awesome restaurants to fulfill her inner foodie. Janet graduated from York University with an English degree. You can follow Janet on Twitter at @janhawk1969 and follow Opterus Inc. at @opterus

Suzanne Tyson
Founder, Higher Ed Points Inc.

Suzanne has been involved in various capacities with higher education and student funding for more than half of her 30-year career, holding roles in several educational publishing companies, the loyalty industry and a scholarship matching company. In 2013, Suzanne combined all of her previous career experience to conceive, develop and launch HigherEdPoints.com, the only company in the world to enable the conversion of anyone’s loyalty points into funds for higher education. Her efforts with HigherEdPoints have directly assisted students and parents’ funding of over $1,500,000 in tuition payments and student loan repayments.

Montana Blum

Montana is a third-year medical student at the University of British Columbia. Before returning home to the west coast to pursue medicine, she completed her B.A. & Sc. at McGill. Montana is interested in the intersection between climate change and population health as well as gender equity. Apart from academics, Montana loves to swim, hike, play piano and bake. Montana is grateful to have been awarded the Opterus Helen Rose STEM Award in 2019 and is thrilled to be sitting on the selection board and learning about this years’ inspiring applicants!