As the first in her family to pursue higher education, Shardae Keane is aware of the expectations and responsibilities.
“My two younger siblings are looking up to me and I am obligated to making my parents proud because they have supported me all the way,” she said last week at the 11th annual Investing in Our Diversity Scholarship (IODS) program fundraiser.
The Harbord Collegiate Institute graduate was among 46 high school and university/college students – the majority from the city’s designated priority neighbourhoods – who were presented with scholarships worth $109,000. She was also the recipient of the Bill McMurtry Memorial Anti-Racism Award.
A humanitarian and tireless crusader for social justice, McMurtry – who co-founded the IODS program – succumbed to lung cancer in 2007 at age 72. His wife, Carolyn Vesely, an Ontario Arts Council visual arts officer, presented the award.
Keane is actively involved in promoting diversity and speaking out on community issues. As vice-president of Harbord Toastmasters International, she supports students in developing their public speaking skills and encourages them to talk about issues that matter most to them.
One of three high school winners of this year’s Royal Bank of Canada scholarships for essays submitted on individuals who have helped shape and define Canada’s diverse heritage, Keane will enter the University of Toronto in the fall to study Political Science. She aspires to be a lawyer and politician.
“Shardae is very serious and passionate about politics and I am extremely proud of her,” said her father, Ricardo “Brother Power” Keane, who co-founded the Dudley Laws Day celebration.
Since its establishment in 2001, about 200 high school students have benefitted from nearly $700,000 worth of scholarships administered by Scadding Court Community Centre (SCCC).
“This program was started because of the inequities in our community,” said SCCC executive director, Kevin Lee. “Because of the issues that our Black youth face around education and the fact that many do not graduate from high school, Bill McMurtry suggested that we start a scholarship program to recognize young people for the work they do in diversity and anti-racism… These scholarships are about young people and the future of our society.”
Two scholarships, each worth $4,000, were awarded to a male and female student the first year.
The scholarships are worth $4000, $2,000 and $1,000 and they are matched by Ryerson University, Humber College, York University, Seneca College, the University of Toronto and OCAD University.
In addition, St. Stephen’s Community House provides scholarship applicants and winners with an opportunity to access support – through its employment training centre – to summer employment opportunities.
The law firm, Blaney McMurtry, and Mount Sinai Hospital have supported the scholarship program from the inception.
“Mount Sinai was born in a community, so what better way of giving back to their community and sharing with it,” said the hospital’s president and chief executive officer, Joseph Mappa.
York University third-year Psychology student, Rachael Hall, said winning the scholarship has boosted her confidence immensely.
“I was not sure if I was going to win it,” she said. “But being successful has given me a moral lift besides a financial boost. Every cent helps when you are attending university.”
Hall plans to pursue graduate studies and become a professional counsellor.
Other scholarship winners were Rexdale resident, Jesse Hector, who attends Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School and is a member of his Student Action Team; Safi Mohamed, who plans to pursue Nursing at Ryerson University; Shalon Hunte, who graduates from Branksome Hall next month and will pursue Political Science studies at Trent University; Haniya Abedella, who intends to study Pharmacology & Toxicology at the University of Toronto; Toni-Anne Simms, who aspires to become a Chartered Accountant and Kenisha Peters, who plans to be a childcare specialist after graduating from college.
Archbishop Romero Catholic Secondary School student, Daniel Yeboah, plans to pursue Computer Programming & Analysis Studies at Seneca College; Stephanie Wilson is a York University Sociology student; Cherelle Chambers will enter York next semester; Paige Stoney will enroll in Humber College’s Community & Justice Services program; Fareed Shash will start Business Technology Management Studies at Ryerson in September; Kayla Devine Downey will pursue Criminology Studies at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Ridwan Olow aspires to be a therapist.
BY RON FANFAIR