By RON FANFAIR
Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge to get going.
Receiving a Markham African Caribbean Canadian Association (MACCA) scholarship in 2013 was a big boost for Abraham Omorogbe.
“That was the first award I won outside high school and that really motivated me to become a leader and do amazing things professionally,” said the McMaster University fourth-year software engineering & management student. “That was the straw that stirred the drink.”
In the last three years, Omorogbe has co-founded a company – Canvas Group Canada which specializes in brand identity, graphic design and website development – and served since 2015 as co-president of the National Society of Black Engineers McMaster chapter.
He also secured Dr. Ezra Nesbeth, William Peyton Hubbard Memorial and Black Business & Professional Association (BBPA) scholarships.
“I am in a good place right now and just grateful for all the support I have received along the way,” said Omorogbe who graduated from Brother Andre Catholic High School and was the recipient of the MACCA-administered Allon McKenzie Memorial Award presented to the student who best exemplifies leadership, community engagement and the best and brightest that society has to offer. “For me, the sky is the limit.”
He scored in the top 20 in the Waterloo Pascal Math Contest prior to entering McMaster, where he’s a teaching assistant.
Omorogbe was among 46 undergraduate and graduate students from across Canada awarded BBPA national new and renewable scholarships last Thursday night.
The stellar collection included University of Toronto Master’s student, Souleik Kheyre, who acknowledged she’s standing on the shoulders of her mother, Fazia Haider, who made her way to Djibouti from war-torn Somalia before ending up in Canada in 1994.
“She came here alone not knowing anyone and obviously made huge sacrifices,” said Kheyre, an only child who was raised in the Jane St. and Falstaff Ave. area and is pursuing industrial relations & human resources studies. “She’s definitely my role model.”
The George Harvey Collegiate Institute graduate aspires to be a labour lawyer.
“I made that decision during an employment relations class in my second year as an undergrad student,” she said. “The focus was on treating employees as human beings and with respect and I latched on to that.”
A vice-president of the African Canadian Studies Course Union at U of T last year, Kheyre is a Youth Job Connection Summer Advisor at St. Stephen’s Community House and the first recipient of the Rotary Club of Toronto and Toronto Argonauts Community Champion scholarship in 2012.
Isaac Hassen is still trying to find his way in his new home after migrating from Ethiopia in 2014.
“The transition has been challenging, but I have met some wonderful people along the way who have helped me integrate,” said the Central Toronto Academy graduate who is in his second year at Ryerson University.
He plans to become a physicist.
Witnessing institutional injustice growing up in Durham is the reason that Rick Frank decided to pursue law.
“I just couldn’t ignore it,” said the Osgoode Hall law student. “With this career, I think I can effect change.”
A graduate of Dunbarton High School and the University of Guelph-Humber with honours in criminal justice studies, Frank was a legal intern with Selwyn Pieters and Lockyer Campbell Posner and a research assistant at Humber College before entering law school last month.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders was among three first-time scholarship donors.
Vaughan Secondary School graduate and York University second-year student, Antonnia (Kiana) Blake, was the recipient of the award.
The aspiring law professor or corporate lawyer is a York University senator and vice-chair of the Student Council of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.
Scholarships were also presented to Payton Ashe, Marissa Walter, Victoria Young, Shemar Bookal, Samuel Boakye, Lasasha Nesbeth, Aaron Dyer, Ayesha Hassan, Abdikarim Abdullahi, Melanie Manning, Onika Robinson-Brown, Rebecca Louis, Tshea Dowers, William Skinner, Florence Ajenifuja, Fitsum Areguy, Tiffany Dodds, Jacques Tynes, Carl Lamers and Makandiwana Shoniwa.
Other winners were Marie Kiluu-Ngila, Rashwana Blair, Chioma Odozor, Tynelle Taylor-Chase, Savannah Simms, Mohammed Al-Hamdani, Alexandria Montague, Brittany Campbell, Nia Kalifa, Chevonne Wint, Nia Clarke, Oluwaseun Davies, Katelyn Broussard, Caleb Jara, Ampai Thammachack, Benjamin McDonald and Mujibat Kamoru.