Some two decades ago, Winston Miller introduced his youngest son, Garfield, to Harry Gairey Sr., widely considered at the time the patriarch of Toronto’s Black community.
During the summertime meeting at Harbourfront Centre, Gairey advised the youth that young people hold the key to the future and told him to get a good education.
The Markville Secondary School graduate listened and is now a star in the medical community.
After successfully pursuing a degree in natural sciences at McMaster University, he went on to become the first African-Canadian to enter the University of Toronto’s ophthalmology residency program.
Miller is now an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Ottawa Eye Institute and a specialist in glaucoma and advanced anterior segment surgery at Ottawa General Hospital.
In 1998, he received three community scholarships, including one from the Markham African-Caribbean Association (MACA). The Miller family has been extremely supportive of the organization in its 24 years of existence and last Saturday they went a step further by presenting a scholarship to memorialize the family matriarch – Cloe Miller – who passed away last year.
The registered nurse practiced in Jamaica, the United States and Canada, where she was a critical care nurse in Sunnybrook’s Health Service Centre’s neurosurgical intensive care and trauma units.
“My mother was a very strong and devoted person and a woman of faith and great character,” said Miller, whose oldest brother, Richard, is a human rights lawyer. “She valued education and was committed to giving back to the community.”
The inaugural Cloe Miller Memorial Scholarship winner is Langstaff Secondary School graduate, Shantana Thompson, who was the recipient of several awards in high school, including the City of Vaughan’s Leadership and French awards.
The University of Western Ontario first-year student aspires to be a lawyer.
Educator Dr. Avis Glaze has been donating scholarships to the MACA for the past eight years. Two years ago, she used the monetary gifts from her wedding to present five scholarships. She also supports a bursary for studies in education at the University of Ottawa.
“When I see those young people, I think to myself that this is our community,” said Glaze, Canada’s first Black female director of education and former associate director of education with the York Region District School Board. “They are bright and ambitious and they need our support and we must do that…Those of us who have done well must support others. We should lift as we climb and that’s why, every year, I make sure I give out a few scholarships.
“The other reason it’s important for me to do this is that I worked and lived in this community. When you do that, you must be a leader.”
This year’s Avis Glaze Scholarship winners were Oneisha Dennis and Natalie Robert.
A graduate of Markville Secondary School, Dennis is enrolled in Brock University’s Bachelor of Arts Child & Youth Studies program.
“This scholarship means that someone is here to support me and it indicates to me that there is a community that does care,” said the aspiring teacher.
Robert, 18, graduated from Maple High School where she excelled in academics, basketball and soccer. She’s majoring in psychology and French at York University.
St. Robert Catholic High School student, Sithandazile Kuzwiwanza, was a double winner. She won the York Catholic District School Board scholarship and the Allon McKenzie Memorial Award which is presented to a student who best exemplifies leadership, community involvement and the best and brightest that society has to offer.
McKenzie founded the MACA in his basement in1987 and served as the organization’s second president a year later. He died in a tragic accident in 1995 and his family launched the award in his name 12 years ago.
“My dad believed in the community and the advancement of young people,” said McKenzie’s daughter, Sophie. “This is also important to us as a way of keeping his legacy alive.”
Scholarships were also presented to Unionville High School graduate, Reshara Alviarez, who is enrolled in the University of Toronto’s Humanities Division; Tia Cardoza, who graduated from Milliken Mills High School and is studying communications at York University; Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy honour roll graduate, Nicole Edwards, who is pursuing a degree in forensic psychology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology; Emily Carr Secondary School graduate, Lekeeya Kinghorn, who is enrolled in York University’s film and theatre program and Lauren Rowe who graduated from Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy and is attending York University’s Schulich School of Business.
Other scholarship winners were Richmond Hill High School graduate and University of Waterloo first-year sociology student, Ruth Kusi-Asare, who aspires to be a human rights lawyer; Ryerson University’s social work student, Nicole May, who graduated from Stephen Lewis Secondary School and was a recipient of the Alliance of Black Educators for Black Students Academic Award; Milliken Mills High School honour roll graduate and University of Toronto political science student, Krystene Robinson, who aspires to be a lawyer; University of Western Ontario student Mallory Yarde who graduated from St. Augustine Catholic High School where she received the award for the highest academic achievement in religious studies; Gabreal Shifferaw, who graduated from Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy and intends to become an environmental engineer after graduating from the University of Toronto; Ti-Shauna Turner, who graduated from Langstaff Secondary School and is enrolled in the University of Guelph-Humber social work program and Tashan Yarde, who graduated from Woodbridge College and is enrolled at Concordia University. He aspires to become an athletic therapist.
The MACA has presented $149,750 in scholarships to 158 high school graduates since its establishment.
Clive Hylton, who donated a scholarship this year, heads the MACA board which includes Pat Howell, Bev Fraser, Aileen Scott, Gary Thompson, Michael Pinnock, and his daughter, Tka Pinnock.