By RON FANFAIR
Kareem Rahaman’s Trinidad-born parents expected that he would be the first in his immediate family to successfully complete a university education. He did not let them down.
The Ryerson University West Indian Students Association (WISA) president graduates this month with a Commerce degree. His younger sister, who aspires to be a teacher, is enrolled at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus.
“My parents are very hard-working and I never had to make a promise to them that I would graduate from college or university,” said Rahaman. “My sister and I were raised in a household where that was the expectation. Our parents set the bar very high and we had no other choice but to reach out for the goals they desperately wanted us to accomplish.”
There is another reason for Rahaman’s parents to be proud.
Their son is among a distinguished group of 51 Ryerson students presented last month with the prestigious Dennis Mock leadership award that recognizes students who have made outstanding extra-curricular contributions to their school or academic program department. The award acknowledges and encourages student participation in university affairs.
“It feels great to be honoured by Ryerson for my volunteer work,” said Rahaman, who is actively engaged in the university’s Tri-Mentoring program which strives to assist the school’s culturally diverse student body in their pursuit of personal goals, academic achievements and career goals.
“I really made an effort to make a contribution to the program to assist first-year students to adjust to university and those in their final year to secure mentors in their career fields. This is a great program because it has other useful components like the first-generation program for students whose parents did not benefit from post-secondary education in Canada.”
In naming the award after Mock, Ryerson recognizes his commitment to higher education and his leadership and dedication demonstrated during his 28 years at the university which, the institution notes, are qualities embodied in students chosen to receive the award.
Rahaman is also proud of the impact he has made on the university in his two-year reign as WISA president. His term ended April 30.
“In that time, our West Indian association has grown to 1,200 making us the largest cultural group at Ryerson,” he said. “That’s important for me because there is still a stigma in some quarters that people from the Caribbean are, in the most part, only interested in partying and having a good time. There are many students who were born in the Caribbean or who were born here of West Indian parents – like me – who are doing well academically and we need to make that point emphatically. The focus for this association is on education and the West Indian population on campus.”
In addition to leading the WISA, Rahaman sits on the university’s Orientation Planning and Student Union Event & Entertainment committees, and is a member of the Ryerson Students United Way campaign body and the Student Collective that meets with administrators to address students’ concerns. He’s also a student ambassador for the first-generation project.
The recipient of the Ryerson Student Service Leadership award presented last month, Rahaman plans to use his degree in a business setting that will encourage students to pursue post-secondary education.
“It’s also pivotal that students get value from their education and this is something that I would like to pass on to them,” said the Dunbarton High School graduate. “It’s also critical that they become involved in extra-curricular activities and volunteer.”