Loyan Issa knows a golden opportunity when he sees one.
When the teenager learned through the African-Canadian Christian Network (ACCN) about elite Upper Canada College’s (UCC) financial assistance program for high schoolers in the Black community, he reached out with both hands.
Some of Canada’s most powerful and wealthy graduated from the private all-boys school which was established in 1829.
Annual tuition costs start at $27,610 and the boarding programming begins at $49,265.
“There is no way that my family could have afforded that,” said Issa who graduated last week after starting the program five years ago in Grade Seven. “I was very ready when the chance came.”
Issa, who attended Market Lane Public School in The Esplanade, said the transition was seamless and easy.
“I went in there with an open mind,” he said. “To be honest, I was not fazed by who attended the school or what it represents to some. There is no harm in trying new things. For me, this was an opportunity to advance myself and get a solid education. Looking back, it was a good experience and I made a lot of friends.”
In addition, Issa played football and basketball and was a member of several of the school’s committees, including the boarding leadership, the students association and discipline.
“These are among the most prestigious leadership positions in the school because you are voted by the faculty based on your leadership abilities,” said Issa, who also headed one of UCC’s 10 Houses. “Today I am proud to say that UCC has provided me with a ton of opportunities and I am able to leave my footprint on the institution as a successful Black male.”
Issa’s marks as of last December were 93 per cent in higher-level Economics, Biology and standard-level Math and French; 87 per cent in higher-level English and 85 per cent in standard-level Chemistry.
He will enter the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in September to pursue an undergraduate degree.
“I want to get into something like investment banking or asset management,” he said.
The ACCN, which fosters and enhances the work of Black churches and community organizations to steer youth away from violence, started conversations about the diversity initiative with UCC president, Dr. James Power, in 2006 shortly after he was installed.
“Coming from America, I figured it dawned on him that the school was not reflective of the Canadian landscape,” said ACCN executive director, Cherryl Lewis. “At that time, he offered us two spots for Black boys from the community and we immediately got in touch with the churches and community organizations for them to submit names of academically strong and socially rounded applicants.”
Issa and Devon Morris, who aspires to be a corporate lawyer, were the first students to be admitted under the diversity initiative. Both of them boarded and attended the day program.
To provide more male students from the community with the opportunity to attend UCC, the ACCN chose not to offer boarding as part of the scholarship package. As a result, seven boys will enter the school next semester, which will bring to 18 the number of boys the network has sent to the college.
Lewis added that her organization is in discussions with Havergal College to provide similar high school opportunities for girls. The independent boarding and day school for girls from kindergarten to Grade 12 was founded in 1894.
Students interested in accessing the scholarships can contact Lewis at email@example.com or ACCN chair, Rev. Alvin Nicholson, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
By RON FANFAIR