As the first in his family to complete high school, York University professor Dr. Lorne Foster is naturally proud of the accomplishment and always ready to promote the benefits of a good education whenever he gets an opportunity.
At last Saturday night’s 30th annual Dr. John Brooks scholarship awards, he reminded this year’s winners that their job prospects are limited and they will more than likely make a menial living if they don’t have an education.
“You will end up being indigent and the cycle of despair and poverty will continue for another generation,” Foster said in his keynote address.
Two eighth, ninth and 10th Graders, three Grade 11s, one Grade 12 and 15 high school graduates were presented with $25,200 in scholarships.
By excelling in school and pursuing post-secondary education, Foster assured the winners that they are well on the road to academic success. Thrown in with the warnings were a few challenges that he said would serve the young people well in the future.
“Since you have gotten this far and achieved this much, I want to suggest that you take advantage of the gifts that your parents, grandparents, community and teachers have bestowed on you and pay that debt forward by honouring your heroes,” the University of Toronto for Multicultural History Society adjunct scholar said.
“Prepare yourself to meet the opportunities that you are going to enter in the orbit of your life and your future. Luck only occurs when preparation meets opportunity. And remember that with great advantages and blessings comes great responsibility so you need to give of yourself to the next generation in order to make your contribution to a world that is better tomorrow than it is today.”
A former Share columnist, Foster joined York University’s School of Public Policy and Administration in 2007, and the Department of Equity Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies two years later. He’s currently the Director of the Graduate Program in Public Policy Administration and Law.
His expertise includes public policy formation in the areas of ethnicity and race, income policy and human rights; labour market and social policy reform focused mainly on public policy and law; empirical social-legal research; institutions and social policy; intersections between workplace diversity and human rights; and theoretical applications of social justice.
“I like my job a lot,” he told the young people. “I feel pretty fortunate to be in this position. It’s an enjoyable, stimulating and rewarding job and I feel being a professor is quite a privileged life. It gives you independence, autonomy and I get to work on research that I like and research that’s important and they pay me for it. You can’t really beat that…This is magnified by the fact that nobody in my family had ever finished high school, let alone go to university.”
Brooks, an Order of Canada recipient who passed away three years ago, established the John Brooks Community Foundation and Scholarship Fund (JBCFSF) in 1980. The organization has presented close to $200,000 in academic awards to nearly 875 students.
Cambridge Academy graduate Antoine McTaggart, who aspires to be a systems engineer, won the top high school graduate award.
“It’s quite an honour and I feel blessed,” said the University of Waterloo first-year student.
The other high school graduate winners were Meia Pajadura, Mathew Brown, Jermaine Francis, Olivia Wallace, Chanel Blackwood, Sarah Ermias, Darius Dorsey, Shanelle Dover, Seth Dyer, Bianca Burns, Dion Daly, Courtenay Jacklin, Alexandra Sitnik and Muhammad Siddiqui.
The rest of the scholarship winners were Ashley Jones, Melanie Manning, Marcel Phang, Elizabeth Ojo, Malik Lindo-Ireland, Shenelle Figueroa, Mariba Douglas, L’Mar Hall, Sabrina Teanne-Sutton and Kiah Reid.
In 1992, Queen’s University became the first institution of higher learning to establish a relationship with the JBCFSF in the form of an annual scholarship awarded to eligible students entering an undergraduate program. Over the years, other educational institutions, private businesses and individuals have joined hands with the JBCFSF to promote and support academic and community excellence.
It was also 19 years ago that the organization launched the Community Service Award of Merit. This year’s recipients were JBCFSF president Filmore Allwood and director Anita Clarke.
Many scholarship recipients are enjoying successful professional careers. Steven Conville is the owner of the Moncton Miracles of the new National Basketball League of Canada and a vice-president and portfolio manager at Macquarie Private Wealth Inc.; Faithe Holder is one of 18 Black partners practicing in influential downtown law firms; Dr. Chris Morgan is the director of a multi-disciplinary family-oriented health clinic in central Toronto; Aisha Wickham is executive director of the Canadian Independent Recording Artists’ Association and Terrie-Lynne Devonish, chief counsel for Aon Canada Inc., was recognized as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under-40 lawyers in 2009.
In addition, Dr. Gary Miller was the first Black to enter the University of Toronto’s ophthalmology residency program; Dr. Darlene Weekes works in the University of Toronto’s anesthesia department and molecular oncologist, George Charames, was the scientific adviser for the movie Splice, where he taught actors Sara Polley and Adrien Brody how to act the part of genetic scientists.