Church celebrates achievement of its youth

By RON FANFAIR

Hanging from the ceiling of the Malton Church of God are inspiring and profound words and phrases to encourage young members of the congregation.

They range from education, intelligence, knowledge, wisdom and perseverance to dedication, destiny, tenacity and education as the key to success.

“I see them up there whenever I come here and they help to motivate me to be the best I can be in a positive way,” said 19-year-old Jemar Smith, who has attended the Mississauga-based church for the past nine years and was one of the winners of the annual scholarships presented last Sunday. “They are all powerful words that transmit strong messages for young people.”

The Brampton Centennial Secondary School graduate said he was proud to be awarded the scholarship.

“It means a lot to see that the church is investing in the future of its young people,” said Smith who is enrolled in Sheridan College’s Social Service Worker program. “It’s an honour to be selected for this award.”

The standout basketball player and Peel Youth Council president, who aspires to be a university professor, plans to pursue anthropology and sociology studies at the University of Ottawa after completing the diploma program at Sheridan College.

The other scholarship winners were Discima Esprit and Jordan Clarke.

Esprit, 20, graduated from Lincoln Alexander High School where she was a member of the athletic council, the peer leadership club and the AIDS awareness committee. She’s enrolled in Ryerson University’s Social Work program.

“I like helping people and giving back,” she said. “That’s why I chose to pursue this career path.”

Clarke said that he was deeply honoured to be recognized by the church he has attended for the last three years.

“It obviously shows they care about youths and I appreciate that,” he said. “It’s now up to us to keep up our end of the bargain and make them proud.”

He will attend St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia to pursue Human Kinetics studies.

The church established the scholarship program last year by presenting two academic awards.

“We consider this an exciting opportunity to identify and encourage excellence in young people who, in spite of the uncertainties of the financial situation they are facing at present, are persistent in their pursuit of academic advancement,” said Bishop Canute Blake who has been at the church for the past nine years. “We have a role to play and we are here to affirm and support young people in our church – and the community in which we operate – in their search for wider knowledge and a brighter future.”

Blake reminded the recipients that they will encounter challenges as they enter the next phase of their academic pursuits.

“There is a curve called failure, a loop called confusion, speed bumps called friends, red lights called enemies and caution lights called family,” said Blake, who served for 19 years as pastor at the Ottawa Church of God which burned its mortgage last Sunday night.

“You will have flats called assignments. But if you have a spare called determination, an engine called perseverance, insurance called faith and a drive called Jesus, you will make it to a place called success.”

The church’s Loving Kindness Ministry, set up in 2001 to financially assist church and community members, support the scholarship fund. The ministry has donated almost $63,000 in the last nine years.

“We continue to hold true to our vision that we need to go beyond our regular ministering and embrace a holistic approach to ensure the spiritual and physical well-being of our community,” said Rev. Iris Douglas who heads the ministry.

In addition to awarding scholarships last Sunday, the church invited four young academic achievers – Black Law Students Association of Canada president and Dean’s List scholar, Anthony Morgan, who recently completed the first year of a double degree law program at McGill University; Dr. Natasha Clarke, who runs a successful medical practice in Brampton; social worker Lekan Olawoye, who graduated from Ryerson University’s Social Work program and Peel District School Board teacher, Dana Daley – to share their success stories with the young people who make up almost half of the nearly 800-member congregation.

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