Had it not being for a guidance counsellor and a few teachers who saw potential, who knows where Jessica Ketwaroo-Green might have ended up?
Left in her grandmother’s care for nearly 15 years after dad abandoned the family and her mother had to seek help for mental challenges, the teenager acknowledged her interest in education was aroused in Grade 11.
“Before that I was just showing up in school, getting very low marks, hanging with the wrong crowd and basically just going through the motion,” she said. “Without parental support, I just didn’t care. However, this one particular guidance counsellor and some teachers showed an interest in me and provided support. It’s because of them that I was really able to turn things around. They made me realize it doesn’t matter where I came from and what’s happening in my life but it’s what I do with what I have.”
“Ketwaroo-Green graduated with honours from Middlefield Collegiate Institute and has been the recipient in the last few months of community scholarships from the Jamaican Canadian Association, the Markham African Caribbean Canadian Association, the Alliance of Educators for Black Students and the John Brooks Community Foundation & Scholarship Fund (JBCFSF).
The Ryerson University first-year politics and governance program student, who aspires to be a lawyer, volunteers at Woodhaven Long Term Care Facility and has two part-time jobs to help pay tuition costs.
“I have made some mistakes in the past and wasted time, but I am happy to be on the right track and very focused on where I want to go in life,” Ketwaroo-Green said. “I have goals that I am fiercely pursuing. This is my time.”
She was one of 16 recipients of this year’s John Brooks Memorial scholarships totalling $20,250.
An Order of Canada appointee and community leader who passed away five years ago, Brooks established the scholarship fund 32 years ago. The organization has presented close to $720,000 in academic awards to almost 916 students ranging from Grades Two to 12.
University of Toronto (U of T) first-year student Mariba Douglas was the top graduate prize winner.
Two previous recipients – brothers Rashaan and Yannick Allwood – each donated $1,000 to this year’s scholarship program.
“It’s very important for me to give back because I have received a lot of financial help on my academic journey from the community,” said older brother Yannick who is a fifth-year music student at the University of Western Ontario. “I received about $10,000 in community scholarships and another $10,000 from the university to pursue post-secondary education and that helped me to focus on my studies without having to worry much about how I was going to pay tuition.”
His scholarship was presented to U of T vocal jazz student Melissa Adams who graduated from Cawthra Park Secondary School.
Rashaan Allwood, who is studying law and music at U of T, awarded a scholarship to Rayandra Hudson who is pursuing music therapy studies at Concordia University. She is also a Cawthra Park graduate.
“There are many talented young people attending that high school that need a little bit of financial assistance,” said the younger brother. “That’s my main reason for doing this.”
He started giving back two years ago when he became the youngest supporter of the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada which funds basic schools in Jamaica by adopting New Town Early Childhood Institution in St. Elizabeth.
Other scholarship recipients were Adam Jurgens, Yuliya Gorelkina, Hannah Oudeh, Yasaman Nouri, Celeste Kelly, Eden D’Mello, Joy McNeill, Dayna McNeill, Jhnelle McLaren, Vercess Esson-Phillips, Jonae Bond and Skyy Diop.
In 1992, Queen’s University became the first institution of higher learning to establish an on-going relationship with the JBCFSF in the form of an annual scholarship awarded to eligible students entering an undergraduate program. This year, they presented three scholarships.
Over the years, other educational institutions, private businesses and individuals have joined hands with the JBCFSF to promote and support academic and community excellence.