A’s and B’s have filled 17-year-old Kayla McLaughlin’s report card since elementary school.
It was not surprising that the honour roll student graduated five months early from Unionville High School as a specialist high skills and arts major.
Enrolled in Ryerson University’s journalism program, the freshman was among 34 college and university students rewarded for academic and community excellence with scholarships by the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) last Saturday night.
“Writing and expressing stories have always been my first love through stage, literature, screen and radio,” said McLaughlin, who has volunteered with the JCA, the Healing Hope annual fundraiser to raise breast cancer awareness and funds and York Region Arts Council.
The talented dancer and actress has appeared in several school and local productions, including Marcia Brown’s I Need to Know my Father.
McLaughlin was the recipient of the inaugural Vinyl Records Collectors Association Toronto chapter scholarship. The organization, which also has chapters in Philadelphia, New York, Connecticut, Atlanta and Jamaica, was started in 1998 to celebrate the life of late record collector, Astley Pessoa.
For Jodi-Anne Buckley, meeting her scholarship donor – Mary Anne Chambers – for the first time was just as exciting as receiving the scholarship.
“I have heard so much about this wonderful woman and to actually shake her hands and be in her presence is so awesome and overwhelming,” said Buckley. “Mary Anne has achieved so much and has done so much for this community, especially young people like me. This is a very proud moment and I will always savour it.”
A graduate of Fletcher’s Meadow Secondary School, Buckley is pursuing anthropology studies at the University of Toronto.
In the keynote address at the 12th annual awards, Ontario’s youngest Member of Parliament, Rathika Sitsabaiesan, encouraged the award winners to dream big and pursue them to the end.
“When I was 14, I decided I was going to be a federal Member of Parliament,” said Sitsabaiesan, who – with her father’s support – successfully petitioned the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board to open a Tamil school close to her Mississauga residence when she was just seven-years-old. “That was a 14-year-old woman of colour having a crazy dream in a White man’s world.”
The 32-year-old New Democratic Party member has been the Scarborough-Rouge River representative since 2009.
“The party sought me out because they recognized the work that I was doing in the community,” said Sitsabaiesan. “It took three requests from them before I decided to run. I had always felt that you had to be older to run, but the tipping point was when Jack (Layton) pulled me aside one day and told me that he wanted me to run and win because I am a young woman of colour. I did and I won. That would not have been possible if I didn’t have a dream.”
Scholarships were also presented to Governor General’s Award of Excellence winner Kristian McCarthy and Brieanna Lemonius, who are enrolled in the University of Western Ontario’s biomedical science program; University of Windsor engineering student, Jason Harrison, who attended Heart Lake Secondary School; Ryerson University nursing student, Oluwatobi Ibitoye, who aspires to be a paediatric nurse; York University Schulich School of Business student, Gabrielle Fletcher; Arts Unionville graduate, Natale Ingram, who is pursuing communication studies at Brock University; Morgan Jackson, who is enrolled in McMaster University’s kinesiology program; martial arts exponent Joshua Smiley, who graduated from Seneca College’s police foundations program with a 4.0 grade point average and is in York University’s criminology program; Jasmine Johnson, who is in York University’s Hispanic studies program; aspiring event planner, Jozelle Thomas-Nakacisa and Carleton University criminology student, Summer Lewis.
Other winners were Humber College’s criminal justice program student, Ellen Konadu; Benjamin Darku, who is enrolled in George Brown College’s business administration program; University of Western Ontario kinesiology program participant, Simone McCarthy; Alexander Bahadur, who is pursuing health science studies at McMaster University; St. Joseph Secondary School graduate, Asa Archibald, who is studying aviation technology at Sault College; Jamaican Nicholas Smith, who is an international student enrolled in Seneca College’s civil engineering program; Humber College’s law clerk & paralegal programs student, Lisa Marshall, who is a Daily Bread Food Bank volunteer; National Theatre School of Canada acting-theatre performance student, Daniel Ellis; St. Marguerite d’Youville Secondary School graduate, Hailey Tate-Donalds, who is enrolled in Fanshawe College’s television production program and Aliyah Fraser, who is in the University of Waterloo’s urban planning program.
Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts graduate, Victoria DaCosta, who is enrolled in Seneca College’s therapeutic recreation program; Fanshawe College’s electrical engineering technology program student, Kaine Watson-Fagon; TAIBU Community Health Centre volunteer, Chinelle McDonald, who is pursuing social work studies at Ryerson University; York University professional writing student, Bria Barrows; Danny Ampadu, who is studying business management at Ryerson University; aspiring English teacher, Christopher Lawrence, who is at Brock University; Ryerson University media production student, Trey Robinson; Janeel Nelson, who aspires to be a probation officer after graduating from Durham College’s criminology & justice program; Patrice O’Brien, who is pursuing broadcasting & film studies at Centennial College and Carleton University journalism student, Darnell Dobson, were also awarded scholarships.
Former JCA president Audrey Campbell presented a bursary on behalf of her parents, Edgar and Enid Campbell, to Brookview Middle School Grade Eight student, Nathaniel Pinnock, who aspires to be a mechanical engineer.
The JCA has presented nearly $400,000 to 350 students since the awards program was launched in 2002.