‘Girl power’ recognized with an Aroni Image award



When it comes to promoting and driving girl power, Marcia Brown does not hesitate to take the steering wheel.

Last summer, Brown brought together female African-Canadian achievers and role models in the Greater Toronto Area to share their experiences and motivate Grade Seven and Eight participants in the Girls on the Move program. This is a program she started for young ladies in the city’s west end who were insecure and unsure of themselves, with low self-esteem and lacking confidence.

The Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) educational assistant and mother of two also mentors Grade 11 and 12 girls and seizes every opportunity to accompany young women to inspiring community events, including the Harry Jerome and Planet Africa Awards.

Brown took 38 young women from Etobicoke to the Aroni Awards recently, where she was recognized for her work as an educator.

“While I am happy to be a recipient of an Aroni Image Award, it’s really for these young people,” said Brown who, last May, was honoured with an Ontario Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence. “I want them to see that if they work hard, they would achieve success and recognition.”

Andrew Ford, Donovan Dill, Sean Mauricette and Haile Desta were also honoured with Aroni Image Awards while Leo Barbe was recognized with an Aroni Inspire Award. Barbe, 21, survived a shooting in Montreal and formed the Think Don’t Shoot organization to educate young people about the effects of gun violence.

Aroni bursaries were presented to Nilson Almonte-Noesi, Michael Monize and Sabrina Idukpaye.

The first in his family to graduate from high school, Almonte-Noesi plans to enroll in university next year to study business while Monize, who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2002 and is confined to a wheelchair, is an industrial design student at the Ontario College of Arts and Design.

Idukpaye is a McGill University first-year political science student who intends to become a lawyer.

Fifteen students have been awarded with Aroni bursaries in the last five years.

Bank of Montreal software developer and arts aficionado, Aron Haile, was killed eight years ago in a bus accident while on a visit to Eritrea to celebrate the Christmas holidays and his 30th birthday with his parents.

Just days before his birthday, Haile was returning from a trip to Matara – an archaeological site about 130 kilometers southeast of Asmara – when his tour bus plunged off a cliff. Haile and three other tourists were killed and he was buried on his birthday on December 27.

To perpetuate his memory, siblings Mesfun, Lia and Helen Haile, established the Aroni Awards in 2006 to recognize young people and role models in the community whose work mirror that of their deceased brother.

“Aron was special in his dedication to helping others and lifting those less fortunate from their existing circumstances,” said sister Lia. “His willingness to mentor youth and his overall love for people made him passionate about giving back to his friends, family and the community at large.

“He had a strong belief in helping individuals. It is in his memory that we strive to continue his mission to give back to our community as he had done.”

Minister of Consumer Services, Margarett Best, has attended every Aroni Award event. She met the deceased many years ago when he approached her to close a deal for a condo he had purchased.

“I was very impressed with him because not too many young people his age would consider taking the bold step of buying their own place,” said Best.

Haile came to Canada with his parents 24 years ago and graduated from David and Mary Thomson Collegiate and the University of Toronto with a degree in computer programming. He and Mesfun started a computer business and a small web-development company and he was a mentor to young people, always urging them to pursue their dreams.

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