With the deadline for the 1995 Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE) scholarship submission deadline just hours away, Scarborough student Sasha Drummond-Lewis’ favourite high school teacher encouraged her to apply.
Without having much time to research the association, the Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School Grade 12 student did the right thing.
She stayed up late that night to write an essay which is part of the scholarship requirement and her teacher submitted the application the next day.
A few weeks later, Drummond-Lewis was informed she was a recipient of the annual scholarship presented in the names of Rose Fortune and Peter Butler III, Canada’s first Black enforcement officers.
“I clearly remember the elation I felt as it was the first scholarship I had ever won,” she said. “Here I was proudly standing as a scholarship winner just after being accepted into the University of Windsor.”
Five years ago, Drummond-Lewis received her doctorate from Wayne State University. The theme of her dissertation was Tolerance and Sex Work: An exploration of racial and gender differences among Canadian and American College Students.
An adjunct faculty member at Wayne State since January 2007, the Detroit resident shared her journey with this year’s winners at the 22nd annual awards recently.
“I can tell you now that when I received the ABLE award, I was a typical 17-year-old in that I only saw the monetary value of the scholarship,” said Drummond-Lewis. “What I didn’t see at that time was what the organization was doing which was encouraging young people to believe in themselves and pursue higher levels of education by providing what I consider to be a launching pad that assists them to do just that.
“Back then, I didn’t see an organization that was concerned with elevating the lives of the neighbourhood’s young citizens with the hope that it would translate into improved communities. It was years later that I finally understood how much more than a monetary contribution this scholarship is. It’s an investment in the future of youths in the Greater Toronto Area.”
Drummond-Lewis urged the recipients – some of whom are embarking on post-secondary education – to gravitate to higher education and approach the next chapter in their life with purpose and vigour.
“Make it an enjoyable experience,” she said. “But do not lose sight of your purpose for being there because it’s the beginning of your preparation to become major societal contributors. Start tonight by cultivating relationships with people you meet here because you never know what that may lead to. You are in the presence of many great leaders who all care about shaping the character of today’s young people.”
ABLE has awarded 124 scholarships worth $141,000 since the program was initiated two decades ago.
Drummond-Lewis commended the organization for stepping to the plate to make a difference in young people’s lives.
“I applaud you for your sustained passion and commitment to this initiative,” she said. “I now have a clearer understanding of what you do and I really respect and appreciate this organization for what it represents.”
Drummond-Lewis attended the awards ceremony with her parents and husband, Cletus Lewis, who migrated from Guyana to Windsor in 1994 and is the media director with the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
The couple has two daughters.