Ontario’s Minister of Health Promotion Margarett Best has a few things in common with this year’s Congress of Black Women (Brampton chapter) award recipients.
The organization presented scholarships to five young people pursuing post-secondary education and a new Community Initiative award to an adult student at its 20th anniversary awards gala last Friday night.
Three of the scholarship recipients are pursuing careers in law which Best studied while working, raising three children, taking night classes at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, then attending Osgoode Law School.
Community Initiative award recipient Cheryl McMahon, like Best, resumed her academic career after giving birth to Nathaniel McMahon-Daly five years ago.
“As a woman who went back to school as an adult raising her children, I commend you for returning to school and taking up studies at Ryerson, “Best told McMahon. “Your choices speak to persistence and opportunity and I applaud you for taking full advantage of the resources we have in Ontario to pursue your dreams.
“You are proof positive that we are citizens of a world where opportunities abound for all, a world where respect knows no colour, no class and no financial barrier.”
A graduate of Richview Collegiate Institute, McMahon completed a two-year Practical Nursing diploma program at Humber College before enrolling at Ryerson University where she’s pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. She aspires to become a primary health care nurse practitioner.
Best commended the scholarship recipients, telling them “your sense of the world and your keen sense of discipline are admirable. The very clear goals you have set for yourself for the future are reassuring indeed.”
She also said she was inspired by Maame Debrah, Tevin Sutton-Stephenson and Abigail Williams who are pursuing careers in the legal profession.
“Bravo to you … our youth must continue to take a keen look at the law from the right side of the lens going forward,” said Best who was called to the Bar in 1997. “In fact, I encourage you to start supporting each other towards this objective right now. In the world’s most powerful political office, we have a shining example of Black lawyers ascending the walls of academia and power.
“As First Lady and President of the United States of America, Michelle and Barack Obama are both alumni of the prestigious Harvard Law School. Although they attended at different times and met during the course of their professional careers, the larger community they are part of played an important role in their incredible journey to the White House…As an African-Canadian woman who holds elected office in this great province of Ontario, I can relate to their lives while I continue to be inspired by them.”
Debrah and Sutton-Stephenson graduated from Fletcher’s Meadow Secondary School and are attending Queen’s University and the University of Toronto respectively. Debrah, who aspires to be a judge, plans to attend law school following her undergraduate studies while Sutton-Stephenson intends to pursue a career in law.
Williams, who graduated from Turner Fenton Secondary School where her mother, Jennifer Cave-Williams, has been an English teacher for the past 19 years, is enrolled in the Bachelor of Humanities program at the U of T Mississauga campus.
This is the fourth academic award that this student who aspires to be a bilingual lawyer has picked up this year. She has also been recognized with United Achievers Club of Brampton, Federal Express and Bishop’s High School Alumni scholarships.
Tanya Mpala and Shannon Walton were also honoured with Congress of Black Women scholarships. Mpala graduated from Fletcher’s Meadow Secondary School and is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business at York University while Walton, who attended Harold Braithwaite Secondary School, is enrolled in the joint Seneca College/York University Bachelor of Science and Nursing degree program.
Former Congress of Black Women national president and Ontario Fairness Commissioner Jean Augustine, Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell, Liberal Member of Parliament Ruby Dhalla and Congress of Black Women Ontario provincial representative Ettie Rutherford attended the event.
A retired teacher, Rutherford congratulated the Brampton chapter for assisting young people, through its scholarship program, to achieve their academic and professional goals.
“Education has always been the bedrock of our existence and it behooves us to remind our youths that our forefathers were beaten and punished in their pursuit to read and write,” said Rutherford. “Helping out young people to strive for excellence by giving them academic awards is highly commendable.”
Actress, radio show host and community activist Kay Livingstone founded the Congress of Black Women four years before her death in 1975.
Headed by President Patricia Challenger-Brade, the Brampton chapter’s executive comprises Joyce Hurlock (vice-president), Donna Thorney (secretary), Jackie Maloney (assistant secretary), Maureen McAllister (treasurer) and Lee Teague (assistant treasurer).