It was like music to Cornel Grey’s ears when his sister assured him he would be comfortable in the Greater Toronto Area. Visiting Canada for the first time in April for his older sibling’s wedding, provided the mild-mannered and easy-going youth with an opportunity to get a glimpse of his new environment for at least the next four years.
He was the recipient of a Trent University International Program Scholarship to pursue English and sociology.
“My sister always told me Canada is clean and I saw it for myself on my first trip,” said Grey. “This country, I feel, is a perfect fit for me personally because I am a laid back individual when it comes to lifestyle and I have family here who I can count on for support.
“While most of my friends were researching American universities, I was focused on Canada and also considering York and Carleton before settling on Trent.”
The 19-year-old Wolmer’s Boys School graduate was presented with the $2,500 Sia Mizrahi scholarship last Sunday at Wolmer’s Alumni Association Toronto chapter’s annual fundraising event, dubbed “The Great Luncheon Concert”, in Brampton.
Iranian-born Mizrahi, a York University business graduate and president of Canam-Appraiz – a company that specializes in auctions, appraisals, liquidations and valuations – has been a major sponsor of the alumni association for the past six years.
“While I am on a full scholarship, I still have to come up with money to support my stay here,” Grey said on accepting the award. “I am so happy with this gesture and I feel like I am more of a Wolmerian here than back in Jamaica, based on all the encouragement and support I have received since I came here in September.
“Everything has far exceeded my expectations.”
Grey, who aspires to be a social worker, is active on campus, contributing to the Peterborough & Trent University Independent Press.
The alumni group raises funds to support the delivery of educational services at their alma mater and also to provide scholarships to young Canadians and Jamaicans pursuing post-secondary education.
“There is evidence that too many of our young people, though talented, are unable to fulfill their personal aspirations due to lack of funding,” said alumni association and 1969 Wolmer’s Girls School graduate, Angella White-Smith. “We think our association can make a difference and, as such, we have started to channel more funds to scholarships.”
The scholarships are already producing results. Peyton Lawrence, the recipient of the Sidney & Mattelia Ferguson and Jean Robinson scholarships, was recently successful in his final board exam and is now a medical doctor interning in Montego Bay.
A 1954 Wolmer’s graduate, Robinson said she’s honoured to be contributing to the success of young people.
“Jamaica needs help,” said Robinson, who has lived in Canada for 54 years and whose brother, Tony – a founding member of the Toronto alumni – died last January. “This country has been good to me and I have enough that I can share with others.
“Though I left Wolmer’s a long time ago, I have not forgotten that that was the institution that provided me with courage and solid educational tools.”
This year’s Sidney & Mattelia and Jean Robinson scholarship winners are Tashanna Walker, Daunaree Jackson and Osaro Haye.
Walker is a first-year University of the West Indies Bachelor of Science student; Jackson is enrolled in the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts Bachelor of Fine Arts program and Haye is a third-year UWI medical student.
Last Sunday’s concert showcased veteran Jamaican entertainer, Ernie Smith, who has recorded over 200 songs, and talented young Canadian musician, Amoy Levy.
“It’s such a privilege for me to share the same stage with such an exceptional and experienced artist like Ernie Smith,” said Levy, who sang the national anthem at last year’s event which featured the world renowned pianist, Monty Alexander. “It’s people like him that have paved the way for me and other young artists to follow.”
Inspired by her mother, Linda Levy, who sang in the church, Amoy Levy started singing in public at age six and later became the Youth Outreach Mass Choir director. Their debut album, Just Look, received Juno and Urban Music Award nominations.
Wolmer’s was established in 1729 when philanthropist John Wolmer bequeathed £2,360 for the foundation of a “free school”. The Wolmer’s Group of Schools now comprises pre-school and preparatory boys’ and girls’ schools, with an enrolment of almost 4,000.
In addition to funding scholarships, the Toronto alumni chapter made financial donations this year toward the renovation of the boys’ school library and the girls’ classrooms and student bathroom. The chapter also participated in this year’s York University summer leadership program for young Jamaican high-schoolers who demonstrate leadership qualities.
Wolmer’s produced the late Rosemary Brown who was the first Black woman elected to a Canadian legislature; World and Olympic 100-metre champion Shelly-Ann Fraser; former Jamaican Prime Minster Edward Seaga and several West Indies cricketers, including Jackie Hendriks, Gerry Alexander, Maurice Foster, Jeffrey Dujon, Gareth Breese, Carlton Baugh, who is in India with the Caribbean side, and the late Ivan Barrow, Karl Nunes and Alan Rae.