In 1999, Emily Mills was the recipient of an Eva Smith Memorial bursary. Last Saturday night, Mills – a senior communications officer at CBC Toronto – was the keynote speaker at the Jamaica Canadian Association’s (JCA) 10th annual scholarship and bursary awards, at which a bursary was presented in Smith’s memory.
A postal clerk and American-trained dental technician, Smith migrated to Canada from Jamaica in 1956 through the Caribbean Domestic Scheme program. After completing her contract, the mother of two and Ryerson University part-time student became a counsellor with the then North York Board of Education. She also co-founded the North York Emergency Home for Youth in 1987.
Concerned about the high drop-out rate of Black high school students, Smith organized workshops and seminars and worked tirelessly with parents to facilitate their understanding of the Canadian school system.
Inspired by the magnitude of Smith’s extensive work in the Greater Toronto Area, Mills established a scholarship at her alma mater – Northern Secondary School – just months after graduating from high school.
“I was going through a particularly challenging period in my life at the time,” Mills told the recipients. “I clashed with my family, moved out at age 17 and struggled hard to juggle classes while maintaining a demanding part-time job. It was a very stressful time, but born out of my personal adversity was a legacy that I am still very proud of today.
“When I began to see that many students were struggling to succeed just like me, I decided to create the award that provides an annual bursary that assists graduating high school students who have overcome challenges in their lives that could have threatened their success. Yes, there were other awards and scholarships at the time for academic achievers, but very few awards recognized students who succeeded on their own terms and triumphed in ‘non-traditional ways’. One year, one student, one bursary at a time, the Triumph Award has helped build a legacy of hope and opportunity.”
This is the second year that the Eva Smith bursary was presented at the JCA awards. Smith’s Bermudan-born husband, Edward; and daughter, Edeva, made the presentations to Mary Felix and Eulalee Lumsden. Felix is enrolled in the University of Toronto’s social work program while Lumsden is studying English and professional writing at York University.
A total of 38 scholarships and bursaries worth $40,000 were awarded at last Saturday night’s event. The JCA has presented close to $251,000 in scholarships and bursaries since 2002.
Playwright Marcia Brown increased her annual donation from $500 over the past two years to $2,500 this year.
“My plays have been quite successful recently and I believe it’s important that you give back to the community that supports you,” said Brown, whose productions include I Need to Know My Father, Country Duppy, Children Children, Feminine Justice, Single Entry, Rosetta, Wipe that Smile and Common Law.
Alicia Harris, Aisha Ehouman and Tamae Vassell were the scholarship recipients.
A graduate of Cardinal Newman High School, Harris is studying film at Ryerson University while Ehouman is enrolled in the University of Western Ontario’s nursing program. Vassell is an honour roll student at St. Bonafice Catholic School.
There were several new donors, including Christopher Parkin and Paula McCurbin, who presented a bursary in their late son’s memory to Claudianna Sarjue, who is enrolled in York University’s honours psychology and concurrent education programs.
A devout Christian and outstanding soccer player, Christopher McCurbin-Parkin collapsed on the field and did not regain consciousness while playing for Sporting FC against West Toronto Peniche in a Central Soccer League Under-16 game at Brockton Stadium on June 4.
The inaugural Dudley Laws Memorial scholarship winners were Rochelle Rochester and Odain Thomas.
Rochester is a Salvation Army volunteer and North Albion Collegiate graduate who is studying criminology at the University of Toronto while Thomas, a Louis Arbour Secondary School graduate and tutor, is enrolled in Ryerson University’s industrial engineering program.
“It’s good to know that there are people in our community who care about youth and are willing to support them financially,” said Thomas.
Philanthropist Dr. Ezra Nesbeth presented $10,000 in scholarships to Xavier Thompson, Christopher Betty and Remi Frater.
“This award alleviates my financial burden,” said Frater, a fourth-year McGill University student whose goal is to be a chartered accountant and certified financial analyst.
A JCA camp counsellor, Thompson is studying business technology management at Wilfrid Laurier University and Betty is enrolled in Ryerson University’s business technology management co-op program.
Trent University political science student, Shalon Hunte, was the recipient of the Gifford and Raphaelita Walker bursary; former George Brown College professor, Erma Collins, presented a scholarship to Ebonnie Campbell, who is enrolled in Humber College’s package and graphic design program; the Barbara Thomas bursary recipient was Brenda-May Namulindaw, who is a Royal Canadian Air Cadets leadership team member and a Ryerson University nursing student and David Grant was the winner of the Mary Anne Chambers award.
“I have a desire to help others and this scholarship will help me to follow in my father’s footsteps of becoming a social worker,” said Grant, who graduated from Agincourt Collegiate Institute and is enrolled in McMaster University’s social sciences program.
Other scholarship winners were Sinclair Secondary School graduate Tyson McLeish, who is studying biomedical sciences at the University of Western Ontario; University of Toronto life sciences program student, Pamela Adeji; Ontario Scholar Alexia Bowen, who is pursuing a degree in sustainable agriculture and food systems at Trent University; York University fine arts program student, Kenya Pinnock; Shanikhoa Burke, who is enrolled in the University of Ontario Institute of Technology criminology and justice studies program; Seneca College’s accounting and finance advance diploma program student, Romaine Burgess; Kay-Anne Allen, whose goal is to be a neurologist; University of Windsor psychology and women studies student, Katie-Ann Wallace and Humber College students Ryan Patton and Tatiana Lennard.
The JCA’s “I Have a Dream Scholarships” were awarded to Raven Phillip-Thomas and Kimberly Cross; the JCA past president’s scholarship was presented in Nehemiah Bailey’s name to Alana Esty; Ryerson University presented academic awards to Gabriel Wright and Radeka Clarke, who are enrolled in their civil engineering and nursing programs respectively, and the Marcus Garvey scholarship winners were Wilson Ryan and Vanessa McIntosh.
Bursaries were also presented to Grade Six student Joseph Edwards, Dominique Reid-Graham, Shardae Keane, Anna-Kaye Evans and Ariel Brouet.
JCA president, Audrey Campbell, congratulated the winners and said the organization is proud to be associated with so many talented students.
“The fact that you are here this evening receiving a scholarship or bursary demonstrates that you have the tenacity and the drive to achieve your goals,” she said. “Your future is bright. Don’t get side-tracked by the naysayers.”
By RON FANFAIR