In Grade Eight, Shavonne Godfrey’s music teacher noted the student’s grasp of music theory that examines language and notation.
That was all the encouragement and inspiration the teenager needed.
She fell in love with the clarinet – her favourite instrument – and also plays the alto and tenor sax, flute, guitar and piano. In addition to playing multiple instruments and singing in several choirs, Godfrey has maintained a 90 per cent average through high school.
A member of her school’s jazz band and the Brampton Symphony Youth Orchestra, Godfrey was the recipient of the Rusea’s Old Students Association bursary at the 21st annual Alliance of Jamaican Alumni Associations (AJAA) reception honouring high school graduates of Jamaican heritage.
The awards ceremony took place last Sunday at the Jamaican Canadian Association’s centre.
“Just having a teacher recognize my talent and tell me that I was good in music theory gave me the confidence to proceed in a musical direction,” said the Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School graduate, who is enrolled in York University’s music program. “That was gratifying along with winning this bursary.”
Humble, determined, responsible and respectful, Keanu Elliott is an exemplary student who exceeded curriculum expectations in his four years at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School in Brampton.
Outside the school environment, he works with his church’s homeless ministry and is a Brampton Minor League Association basketball coach.
Elliott appreciated the AJAA’s recognition and the Wolmer’s Alumni Association Toronto chapter bursary.
“It will certainly help to alleviate some of the financial stress,” he said.
The son of Jamaica Ex-Soldiers Association (Canada) president, Stanford Elliott, enters Carleton University in September to study law.
The AJAA, which comprises 43 members, has presented close to $206,000 in financial awards to almost 122 graduates since the bursary program started 15 years ago.
Other bursary winners last Sunday were Mikaela Dunn-Robinson, Stephen Stoddart, Rayandra Hudson, Leneque Wilson, Na’Shantea Miller, Marshalee McLeod and Janelle Morgan.
Dunn-Robinson, who is enrolled in Brock University’s science program, demonstrated academic consistency throughout high school; while Stoddart is described as “a perfect example of a modern high school Renaissance man”.
Multi-talented and highly motivational, Hudson spent a summer in Quebec enhancing her French-speaking skills. She also sang the national anthem at a Blue Jays baseball game at the Rogers Centre and was a finalist in YTV’s “The Next Star” talent competition.
Wilson is set to pursue social work studies at York University, Miller volunteered in Uganda as part of a school project, Morgan is enrolled in Ryerson University’s science program and McLeod, who was successful in a first-year University of Toronto sociology class while in Grade 11, will attend the University of Guelph.
Cornwall College, Holmwood Technical and Knox alumni, along with the AJAA and Colin Harris also presented bursaries to the winners selected by an independent panel, comprising mainly educators.
If the bursary recipients and graduates were looking for inspiration as they make the transition from high school to post-secondary education, keynote speaker, Tamara Gordon, was the ideal candidate.
She suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury in February 2002 while on a high school downhill skiing trip. The spinal cord and brachial injuries left her paralyzed from the waist down and without the use of her dominant left hand. Despite the setback, the Markham resident, who aspired to be a professional basketball player, graduated on time from high school as an Ontario scholar with a 91 per cent average.
Four years ago, Gordon completed her undergraduate degree at York University and was on the Dean’s List. She’s also the recipient of close to 60 bursaries, scholarships, certificates and awards, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal she received from Prince Charles at Queen’s Park last year.
“My body is paralyzed, but my mind is not and I refuse to use paralysis as an excuse for not achieving,” said the 2003 AJAA bursary winner. “I stand here this afternoon and say that you can turn your setbacks into success despite your circumstances once you stay the course. My body is confined to a wheelchair, but my mind is not. My body might be impaired, but my mind is vital and vibrant. My body can’t move without help, but my mind is free to soar to great heights and I am capable of great achievements. My body does not define me. It’s my mind that determines the level of my achievements.
“My message to you is simple. It’s for you, having determined your goals, to maintain your focus on those goals at all times and work hard. I promise that if you do this, you will accomplish whatever you desire because anything is possible. The difficulties and challenges are going to come because that’s part of life, but you will be a winner.”
New AJAA president, Wayne Swaby, congratulated the graduates and wished them success as they prepare for life after high school.
“Your talent and desire to succeed have brought you to this significant juncture,” he told the graduates. “You have reached a very important milestone in your lives and you need to know and understand that an entire community stands behind you and will do whatever is in our power to encourage your journey towards ultimate success.
“I invite you to consider the concept that the educational system is like an arena where there is fierce competition between many players. The winners in this game are the ones who work the hardest and achieve the best results therefore making them the most attractive to the corporate world or whatever professional area they may choose.”
As part of the graduation ceremony essay writing prizes were presented to winner Julianne Mundle and first runner-up Keanu Elliott. Victoria Mutual Building Society and the Allwood brothers – Rashaan and Yannick – donated the prizes.
The rest of the graduates honoured were Ainslee-Ann Gibbs, Anika Palmer, Anthony Barnes, Bina Nsimba, Chevon Gilzene, Ilya Mogg, Janell Gray, Joshua Thompson, Kenann Brisett, Kendal Blake, Kiana Bonnick, Lowssa Barnes, Quynn-Nicholena Smith, Raeheem Nelson, Renee Spence, Shayna Pascal-Webb, Toneisha Miller, Wynnikka Mathews and Zana Ellis.