What are you going to do with your post-secondary education and how is it going to make a difference in your life and the lives of your families, communities and the entire nation in a global context?
Renowned educator, researcher and writer, Dr. George Dei, posed the question to the 56 recipients of this year’s Black Business & Professional Association’s (BBPA) national scholarships at the Toronto Police College last week.
“Now that you have received scholarships, much will be expected of you,” Dr. Dei told the winners at the 26th annual awards ceremony. “Most of you will be intellectuals and your community is going to expect a lot from you. It’s not what you are called that’s important but rather what you respond to that’s most vital…If our community is going to be good, then how we are going to work to make it that way is going to be very important in that regard.
“Your community has given so much to your education that you cannot afford not to give back. If you want to say you have paid your dues, I beg to ask you how much did you pay and who did you pay it to…We are here to celebrate your success, but nobody wants to celebrate irrelevance. That means you have to be relevant to our community. The knowledge you receive must compel actions as there is no point in acquiring it if it’s not going to help you to transform the lives of your community and families.”
A professor in Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), Dei reminded the recipients their journey will be filled with challenges.
“To me, knowing what the challenges are is part of winning the battle,” said Dei, who is an advocate for Africentric education. “Every generation has faced challenges, but the ability to overcome them is knowing what they are.”
Ontario’s Minister of Consumer Services, Margarett Best, congratulated the winners and advised them to grasp the opportunities that come their way.
“These scholarships will assist you as you prepare to go down an important road,” she said. “This is the start of a journey with opportunities and the education you receive is the key to a better future. It’s the means through which you can realize your full potential and achieve your goals and I can attest to that.”
A graduate of Wayne State University in Michigan, Best took time off from school to raise her three children before enrolling part-time at the University of Toronto. She juggled two jobs to put herself through Osgoode Law School and graduated in 1995. She was called to the Bar two years later.
Best ran a practice specializing in corporate law and real estate and was a member of several organizations, including the now defunct Ontario Provincial Police Advisory Council, the Law Society of Upper Canada Solicitors’ Examination Blueprint Committee, the College Compensations & Applications Council, the Black Business and Professional Association and the Women’s Rights Action Coalition of Durham prior to entering politics five years ago.
Jamaican-born Best was first elected to the Ontario Legislature as a Member of Provincial Parliament in the Riding of Scarborough-Guildwood in 2007, and appointed to Cabinet as the Minister of Health Promotion and Sport. She was re-elected four years later, making history by becoming the first Black woman re-elected to the Provincial Legislature in Ontario.
The former BBPA first vice-president presented two Ontario government First Generation scholarships, available to students in the province who are the first in their family to attend university or college.
The winners were Ryerson University second-year nursing students, Alexia Singh and Chandecia French.
A graduate of Middlefield Collegiate Institute, Singh is the daughter of Guyanese writer and playwright, Leon Saul, while French has a Bachelor of Science degree in Anatomy and Cell Biology from McGill University and is a member of her campus’ learning centre and a tutor for first and second-year nursing students.
Other scholarship winners were Emery Collegiate Institute graduate and Ontario Scholar Imaobong Eka, who is a first-year nursing student at Fanshawe College; aspiring immunology doctor Craig Edwards, who is completing his pre-med program at the University of Alberta; fourth-year McGill University student and Ontario Soccer Association referee Remi Frater, who has been on the Dean’s Honour List every year; University of Western Ontario second-year undergrad, Marcus Muchura; University of Toronto doctoral candidate, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah; 20-year-old Boss magazine editor, Tamika Johnson; York University sociology major, Cylinta Hasfal; Saint Mary’s University first-year commerce program student, Rethabile Tshabalala; U of T chemical engineering program participant, Babatope Ajayi; Seneca College’s independent music production program student Keisha Fanfair, who was recently offered a Songwriters’ Association of Canada opportunity to teach hip-hop songwriting; Concordia University student, Anne-Marie Prophete; York University social work degree student, Leanne Prendergast and Ottawa Islamic School Grade 12 student, Mohamed Abdirizak Mohamed.
Scholarships were also presented to Humber College student, Llevi Barrett-Lee; U of T psychology entrant, Ridwan Olow; University of Manitoba Faculty of Law student, Samir Hassan; third-year Dalhousie University commerce student, Thabiso Tshabalala; Carleton University second-year student, Kimani Peter; Ottawa-based undergraduate, Iffa Hujaleh; Ryerson University fourth-year journalism student Joan Piloya, who aspires to be an international human rights writer; Ryerson student, Aneka Olbino; Oneil McClure, who is pursuing a double major in criminology and political science; fourth-year Ryerson University chemistry program student, Nande Wright; York University urban studies final-year student, Chris-Ann Manning; U of T materials engineering student, Chol Ghai Chol; Ebony Rose, who intends to practice human rights, immigration and administrative law and do pro bono work after graduating from Osgoode Hall Law School; Seneca College’s business administration & human resources participant, Kira Miller-Connage; Roderic Southwell, who aspires to establish a behaviour therapy profession after graduating from Trent University and Dalhousie University nursing student, Olivia Okoh.
Queen’s University science major, Larissa Xu; Rhonda George, whose Master’s thesis investigates student perspectives on Africentric schooling; University of Moncton health sciences student, Samantha Bizimungu; George Brown College’s hearing instrument specialist student, Ifrah Ibrahim; Jessica Bonaparte, who is enrolled in the University of Calgary’s biological science program; University of Ottawa third-year student, Mohamed Youssouf; North Albion Collegiate Institute graduate Patience Afolabi, who is enrolled in the University of Guelph-Humber business administration program; Queen’s University life sciences student, Chioma Odozor; Nakita Kelsey, who is enrolled in Osgoode Hall Law School; University of Ottawa third-year common law students, David Brouet and Alain Alphonse; Wilfrid Laurier second-year student, Demilade Oba; Canadian University College bio-med freshman Jyssica Delpeche, along with Jordan Bigford, Jonathan Etienne, Theophilus Adjei, Hezekiah Davies and Rashaan Allwood, were also awarded scholarships.