First-year university student Tariq Dowers is the top gymnast in the province and a role model and mentor; Rashaan Allwood is well on his way to becoming a lawyer and leading concert pianist; Wilson Ryan won the Best Crown Attorney Award during a Mock Trial in Grade 10 and plays four musical instruments, and Hezekiah Davies aspires to become Canada’s first Black Prime Minister.
Demonstrating that Black male students are succeeding despite the negative indicators of schooling, the quartet was among 16 Peel area high school graduates to receive $1,000 scholarships at the United Achievers Club of Brampton’s (UACB) 28th annual awards dinner last Saturday night.
Dowers, who migrated from Trinidad & Tobago at age five, has represented Canada at several major international competitions, including last year’s Pan American Games in Mexico and the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. The 18-year-old York University student’s main goal is to represent Canada at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
A graduate of Cawthra Park Secondary School with a 95 per cent average in Grade 12, Allwood is studying law and music at the University of Toronto. Last year, he became the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada’s youngest supporter of a basic school in Jamaica when he adopted New Town Early Childhood Institution in St. Elizabeth. In 2003, he played the lead role of Young Simba in the Walt Disney Broadway musical, The Lion King.
Ryan, who graduated from St. Edmund Campion Secondary School and is enrolled in Brock University’s Honours Bachelor of Science program, plans to become a patent attorney while Davies – an Ontario Young Liberal Association member – is a psychology student at York University.
In the keynote address, Justice Dr. Irving Andre said the distinguished graduates represent an extraordinary array of talent and achievement in the community.
“It’s often said that we live in difficult times, our young people are in crisis and they have surrendered to the negative social forces that stalk our community,” said Dr. Andre, one of just two judges in Ontario’s Court of Justice with a PhD in Law. “I see no evidence of this negative picture here tonight. In fact, I see an oasis of talent and a blaze of wonderful sunlight at the end of the rainbow. I see a wonderful and bright future for our community.”
Andre reminded the recipients that they count among the fortunate and privileged of young people in the history of Canada.
“Never have there been so many opportunities for higher learning and never have there been so many universities to choose from,” he said. “Never has there been so many colleges waiting to nourish your minds, never has there been so many scholarships and bursaries available for the student who thirsts for higher learning and a bright future and never has there been, right here in our community, so many success stories to emulate and so much encouragement on your journey to succeed.
“And so I say to you, despite the challenges you have faced and will surely face, pursue your education as if your very life depended on it. And as you do, be guided by the sage advice of one philosopher who once noted that there are no failures in life and that there are only people who give up too soon. Your resolve to succeed will surely be tested as you work towards your chosen goal.”
Andre, who was called to the Ontario Bar in 1990, told the graduates that while social media is a useful tool, they should not become dependent on it and they must be careful of the content they post online.
“This attitude is one you must consciously and unequivocally avoid,” said Andre who has written and co-written over a dozen books. “Avoid the seductive embrace of the electronic media that, in many respects, is a powerful tool of learning. Be mindful of the information you place on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter since it is a permanent record that employers are increasingly seeking access to. A moment of indiscretion can haunt you in many ways that may seem unimaginable.”
The UACB, in collaboration with its corporate partners, including the Kiwanis Club of Brampton, Sun Life Financial, Peel Regional Police, Sterling Dental and private donors, have rewarded 286 high school graduates for academic excellence and community service with close to $285,000 in tuition assistance in the last 28 years.
Andre said the UACB and the Kiwanis Club of Brampton, which has donated $84,000 to the scholarship fund, deserve special recognition.
“You cannot gild the lily and so my words will amount to nothing more than a valiant but vain attempt to pay homage to the great work of these two organizations and their distinguished membership,” Andre added.
Scholarships were also presented to St. Marcellinus Secondary School graduate Natalie Asumeng, who is enrolled in Sheridan College’s advertising program; University of Toronto Social Sciences program student Faith Edem, who aspires to go to law school; Port Credit Secondary School graduate Adam Fernandez-Criado, who is enrolled in McMaster University’s life sciences program; University of Toronto sociology student Simone Guishard, who is a member of the Brampton Youth and the Rose Orchestras; and 18-year-old Fletcher’s Meadow Secondary School graduate Vanessa Lawrence, who intends to be a lawyer.
Other scholarship winners were Central Peel Secondary School graduate Patrica Lee, who plans to become a family doctor after completing her first degree at Sheridan College and graduate studies; York University music and psychology program student Alicia Maynard, who is aiming to become a music therapist; St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School graduate Austin McNeil, who is studying media & communications at Algonquin College; University of Ottawa student Caroline Muia, who aims to speak five languages and become a pediatrician; Notre Dame Secondary School graduate Adedapo Omiyale, who intends to become a lawyer; University of Toronto student Shanice Satherswaite, who managed the track & field team at St. Edmund Campion Secondary School; Heart Lake Secondary School graduate Ashley Thompson, who aspires to be a teacher; and Sanique Walters, who is enrolled in York University’s Bachelor of Arts program.
Each year, the UACB – which was established 32 years ago – also recognizes members and community workers who have made significant contributions to the growth and development of the organization.
Sterling Dental was presented with the Community Partnership Award while Valda Palmer and SNAP Brampton were the recipients of the Senior Citizen and Media awards, respectively.
By RON FANFAIR