Kareena and Kristal Elliston are bright, articulate, confident, creative, motivated and friendly young women. Obviously, these are the qualities that endeared Kristal to American-born commercial litigator, Roy Prather III. The couple were married last Saturday in Toronto.
While doing her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Kristal served on the pre-med group executive committee and was president of the university’s acapella group, where she met her husband.
A 2003 Harry Jerome Award winner for Leadership, she successfully pursued her Masters in Physiology and Biophysics before securing another scholarship to attend medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans.
“I have always had a passion for science and, as I got older, I realized that my focus was on health and interacting with people,” said Kristal. “In my opinion, there are not enough medical professionals in the Black community and I think our people need to see more people with their colour in those roles.”
Enrolled in the Special Arts program at Unionville High School, Kristal combined her academic and artistic talents with a strong sense of social responsibility to become a significant contributor in her high school and in the community.
She was the student representative on the York Region District School Board Race Relations Committee and the director of the school’s student council, where she worked with staff and students to organize social events for her peers in school and in the community.
Kristal also petitioned the then Ontario Minister of Education and her local MPP to address the lack of financial aid for underprivileged students from low-income communities.
While researching for bursaries and scholarships to aid these students, she took the bold step to develop an information package containing tips for formulating reference letters and available scholarship websites.
The useful resource tool also allows students to access information on the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Testing (ACT) assessment for individuals wishing to attend an American post-secondary institution.
Kristal, who speaks French, spent a summer in Argentina studying Spanish. The third-year medical student and volunteer fitness counsellor interacts with patients in both languages and translates for doctors.
She spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic treating Haitians who needed medical help shortly after the January 12, 2010 earthquake.
Almost a decade ago, TD Canada Trust made a significant investment in Kareena Elliston.
The high school honours student and active youth leader was a recipient of the financial institution’s $50,000 national scholarship and a guaranteed offer of summer employment with the bank for up to four years.
The reward on that investment has been huge.
Armed with an undergraduate degree and an MBA, Elliston is a member of TD Bank Group Management Rotational program that enables MBA graduates to complete four six-month rotations in the financial institution’s subsidiaries developing leadership and management skills.
After completing the rotations, management associates can build their careers with TD Bank Group in areas of the enterprise where their interests and capabilities can be best leveraged for organizational impact.
Kareena said the TD scholarship allowed her flexibility in Queen’s University Languages and International Studies program. She spent the first two semesters in England at the Queen’s-owned and operated Bader International Study Centre (BISC) housed in Herstmonceu Castle. At the BISC, Kareena participated in an innovative first-year program which allows highly qualified students to study abroad.
As part of the program, she also travelled to Scotland, Belgium, Spain, France, the Czech Republic and China, where she spent a month with a Chinese family and got the opportunity to practice Mandarin which she was studying at the time.
“I had a real international diverse experience to start my university career,” the academic standout said.
Kareena spent her second year at Queen’s Kingston campus before heading to Mexico to study Business and Spanish, in which she’s now fluent.
“All of what I achieved at Queen’s was because I was at a fantastic school with great international connections and there were funds available to do the things I did.
“Not everyone, however, is fortunate and there is a great disparity between those who can afford to go to university and those who can’t. The gap is widening rapidly and it’s affecting young people from our community.
“There are many youths who are smart and talented enough to get ahead, but there are barriers preventing them from getting into university,” she said.
A member of the York Region Police Liaison Committee and the York South Association Parent Relief Project, Kareena volunteered with the Markham African Caribbean Association and was instrumental in the community organization rescheduling its annual youth conference from Saturdays to a school day to attract more student participation.
She also sang the Black national anthem at community events, taught post-colonial history to youth groups and worked at IBM part-time while attending high school.
“I learned about corporate culture and how Fortune 500 companies worked before I got to university,” the 2003 Association of Black Law Enforcers (ABLE) scholarship recipient said. “That was a fantastic experience.”
With her mother’s guidance, Kareena and a few of her peersstarted the Leaders of Tomorrow one-day forum that exposes Grade 11 and 12 students from some of the city’s designated priority neighbourhoods to business and career opportunities.
It also seeks to encourage and inspire students to strive for academic excellence and economic independence. Students participate in workshops that focus on interview skills, business etiquette, professional conduct and best practices, money management, cutting edge advancements in technology and strategic life mapping.
The sisters spoke glowing of their parents’ role in their success. Their mother Icilda – who six years ago won a Harry Jerome Award for Professional Excellence — is a principal at Emery Collegiate Institute while their father, Errol, is an engineer.
“When we were about six years old, anything that we said we wanted to be, our parents would put stickers on our door indicating it,” said Kristal. “They purchased books that related to the fields we showed an interest in and they took us to theatrical plays and the science centre.
“When our mom was doing her Masters at the University of Toronto, she took us as little kids to night classes with her. We learned how to access the library and other educational resources long before we got to high school.”
In addition to their parents, the sisters are grateful for the community support they received.
“Without the bursaries, scholarships, teachers and so many mentors, we would not be where we are today,” they said. “We made the most of all those opportunities and we want everyone to know how much we appreciate the help and guidance.”
By RON FANFAIR