With university on the horizon, 60 high schoolers from across the country now have some much needed funds they can use for tuition and books.
The Grade 12 students were recipients of Herb Carnegie Future Aces Foundation scholarships presented last week at an awards ceremony at Willowdale Pentecostal Church.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute student, Yasmine Gray, counts herself to be among the fortunate.
“This is a big deal for me,” she said. “I am happy to be receiving a scholarship named after Mr. Carnegie that will help cover some of my school costs. University education is quite expensive and every penny counts.”
A youth advocate for women’s rights, mental health and violence prevention, Gray plans to enter Carleton University in September to pursue public affairs and policy management studies.
Graduate school and a career as a non-profit organization program manager are also on her radar.
“I am passionate about improving the status of women, marginalized groups and people with mental health issues,” she said. “That’s where my focus is going to be.”
The scholarships reward young people who are excelling academically and as volunteers in the school and wider community.
A Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI) graduate, Gray was a volunteer youth leader with Victim Services Toronto (VST) Tear Ending Abusive Relationships (T.E.A.R) program. For the last eight years, VST has been operating the program independently, which is geared towards young people enrolled in middle and high schools in the Greater Toronto Area. T.E.A.R. combines media clips and music videos to illustrate the devastating effects and unique dynamics of domestic violence.
Prior to securing employment with VST as a youth committee liaison, the teenager volunteered for a year with VST, which provides crisis response, trauma and support services to victims of crime and sudden tragic circumstances 24 hours daily.
Gray is also the co-leader of her school’s mental health awareness group and the “Because I am a Girl” movement, dedicated to empowering girls globally by promoting gender equality and girls’ rights.
A total of 343 students applied for the scholarships.
“When you look at the large amount of applicants, I feel as if I am blessed to be one of the lucky ones standing here tonight as a proud recipient of this prestigious honour,” said York Memorial Collegiate Institute graduate, Tamara Twumwah-Ofori. “Just trying to grasp that I am the winner of a national award is unbelievable. What it proves is that hard work does pay off.”
Born in Toronto to Ghanaian immigrant parents, the Grade 12 student intends to pursue social work studies at Ryerson University.
“I love helping people,” she said. “I picked that up from my mom, who works in a nursing home and just loves caring for people.”
Twumwah-Ofori volunteers countless hours mentoring young girls and is the president of the Black History Club and a member of the choir at her school.
Two years ago, the Bernice Carnegie Award was established to honour the Herb Carnegie Future Aces Foundation’s former executive director.
The award recognizes a scholarship recipient whose philanthropy and volunteerism reflects the trailblazing spirit and long-term dedication of the organization’s first executive director, who stepped down in 2013.
This year’s winner is Georges Vanier Secondary School graduate, Shaza Ali, who aspires to be a lawyer.
“This is the first time I have won an award or scholarship, so I am so thrilled,” said the teenager who chairs her school’s girls empowerment club.
Nearly 18 months ago, Ali was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
“I have worked hard to overcome my challenges and also raise awareness about issues related to mental health,” said Ali, who is also a designer.
Carnegie presented the award to Ali.
“With the challenges she has encountered, it would have been easy for this young lady to keep to herself,” she said. “Instead, she found the courage to move on and raise awareness about health. She’s a mover and shaker.”
The Herb & Audrey Carnegie Memorial Award was presented to Amanda Belzowski, who has raised thousands of dollars for the Heart & Stroke Foundation through lemonade stands she started in 1999.
The award recognizes a scholarship recipient who demonstrates exceptional long-term dedication and service to the community.
Herb Carnegie and his wife of 63 years, Audrey – who died in 2003 – established the foundation to award scholarships to youths. The family patriarch, who was denied the opportunity to play in the National Hockey League (NHL) because of his skin colour, also created the Future Aces creed to instill self-esteem and mutual respect and to enhance the overall development of participants in the Future Aces Hockey School he set up in 1975. He passed away in March 2012.
Since the scholarship awards program started 27 years ago, approximately $700,000 has been presented to students across Canada.
“Most of the students that applied this year are high performing academically,” said the foundation’s executive director, Tka Pinnock. “They are also giving tons of hours back to community service, either as part of their varsity teams or student councils and in the broader community.”