Francis Jeffers started an organization 20 years ago with the idea of using technology and science to empower young people, particularly African-Canadian youth, and to highlight the significant and myriad contributions of Blacks in science and invention throughout history.
Last weekend, Visions of Science Network for Learning (VSNL) was recognized with the prestigious $25,000 Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Award for promoting science education and careers among disadvantaged young people.
Minister for State in Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, said the government recognizes the importance of the work done by organizations like VSNL to foster and instill an early interest in science.
“Their work to inspire more youth to pursue an education in science and engineering will contribute to the long-term prosperity of Canada,” he said.
Jeffers, who retired from Sanofi Pasteur in 2010 after 32 years’ service, said the prize money will go towards strengthening the organization and promoting new initiatives. The organization was forced after 18 years to cancel its annual two-day symposium three years ago because of a lack of funding.
“The money that we used to receive from Black and corporate businesses was simply not there anymore,” said Jeffers who migrated from Dominica at age 16. “We don’t intend to bring back that event, but we will take part in the annual Science Rendezvous and create more science clubs around the Greater Toronto Area…The funding serves as a vote of confidence to continue our quality programming which inspires hundreds of young people to pursue their dream of a career in science and technology.”
The organization has five science clubs in Toronto and another three will be opened in Peel next year.
Jeffers, who now resides in Johannesburg, also plans to open a club in the South African city.
NSERC president, Suzanne Fortier, said the work done by VSNL is important in introducing science to young people who might not otherwise be exposed to the possibility of a career in science.
“Through the work of this organization, disadvantaged youth are being given the opportunity to see science as an option for their future,” she added.
BY RON FANFAIR