The sky has always been Justice Betty’s limit. The Toronto freshman has never wavered in her belief that she could become Prime Minister of Canada.
A public speaker since age six, the precocious teenager established the Political Youth Network (www.pynsocial.com) in March 2013. It’s an online platform to attract young people into the political process through connection, discussion and engagement with their peers and politicians.
“I firmly feel that you don’t have to wait until you reach the age of 18 to be involved in the political process,” said Betty, who is one of four recipients of the inaugural Western Union Future Leaders’ $2,500 scholarships. “You can start now.”
Enrolled in the dual Columbia University and Paris Institute of Political Science Bachelor of Arts program that offers a global undergraduate educational experience, Betty was ecstatic when she learned she had won the award.
“I am tremendously excited to be a recipient of this scholarship,” she said. “For me, it’s a great honour to be recognized by my community and I am greatly humbled for the financial contribution that will support me in my pursuit of higher education.”
Betty, who has authored three books, is in France studying social sciences at the Paris Institute of Political Science, commonly referred to as “Sciences Po”.
“Over the next four years, I will be working to achieve two undergraduate degrees from two institutions,” she said. “I plan on majoring in political science with a minor in African-American Studies when I go to New York in two years to continue my studies at Columbia. While I miss Toronto, I appreciate the opportunity that studying on two continents in two vastly different systems will provide me with as I look towards my future. After obtaining both undergraduate degrees, I plan to attend law and business schools to get my first professional graduate degree in law and a Master’s in Business Administration.”
The youngest co-host of the prestigious Harry Jerome Awards at age 12, Betty represented Canada at the World Individual Debating & Public Speaking championship in Brisbane in 2012 and the second Individual Independent Schools Public Speaking competition in Lithuania last October.
Graduating with an 89 per cent average from Bishop Strachan School where she captured the Harriet Walsh and Rose Grier Academic Leadership Awards in Grades 10 and 11 respectively and was the co-head of the Speakers’ Union and deputy editor/writer of the school’s newspaper, Betty was accepted into the exclusive incubator program at Harvard Business School.
“It’s clear that Justice is not just a dreamer but a doer,” said former parliamentary and public affairs intern, Jane Hilderman, who nominated Betty for the 2013 Samara Everyday Political Citizen youth award that celebrates Canadian democracy’s unsung heroes. “The creation of her social networking platform is a bold effort to show youth aren’t apathetic about politics but rather bored with ‘politics as usual’.”
Other Western Union scholarship winners were Kyler Philip, Jasmine Francis and Nathalee Ewers.
A graduate of Brampton’s St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School, Philip volunteered at Halton Women’s Place and with the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation while working two part-time jobs and playing sports in high school.
The honour roll student is pursuing kinesiology studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Francis plays steel pan and volunteered with the Terry Fox Foundation, St. Joseph Hospital, the Walk with Christ annual Pilgrimage in Hamilton and the Dominican Association of Hamilton. The Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School graduate is enrolled in York University’s Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology program.
Ewers graduated from Pickering High School with a 91 per cent grade point average and is enrolled in McMaster University’s life sciences program. In high school, she captained the rugby team, led her school’s jazz band and served as a Durham Black Educators Network Conference ambassador.
The scholarship program was launched last May at a Grace Kennedy networking session at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
“The quality of the inaugural winners is exceptionally high,” said Western Union/Grace Kennedy Money Services Caribbean Marketing Community consultant, Nicole Aikman-Smith.
The popular birthright program, that started in 2004 to help broaden the horizons of second and third-generation Jamaican university students living in the Diaspora, was re-launched at last May’s conference.
The closing date for applications was last Sunday and the winners – one each from Canada, New York and Florida – will be announced next month.
The eight-week program, aimed at students between the ages of 18 and 30 with a minimum grade point average of 3.0, was suspended five years ago.