Building brighter futures: Scholarship program recognizes 45 students

Building brighter futures: Scholarship program recognizes 45 students

June 01, 2016

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A surgeon unraveling the intricacies of the human body.​

A psychiatrist fighting back against mental health stigma.

A journalist exploring the world.

​If you were to ask Toronto Community Housing students to share their hopes and dreams for the future, these are just some of the answers you would hear.

There's Kadre, a star athlete from Don Mills and Sheppard, who dreams of becoming a doctor.

"​If I could save lives, that's the number one thing I would do. I want to go to medical school and become a surgeon," he says with a smile."

​"I'm a part of the basketball team and I also do track and field. Growing up as an athlete, the anatomy of the body was always so fascinating to me – Why do I jump this high? Why do I shoot the basketball like this? So just learning about the body and understanding why it works the way it does is so interesting to me."

K​adre shares how playing basketball has sparked his fascination for science and the human body.

Kadre also spends his time mentoring young kids in his neighbourhood, a passion that he says has helped him become closer to his community.

"I like to be around the people, especially the young kids in my community. Mentoring them is so rewarding, watching them learn and grow is the best part," he says.

Then there's Kadiatu, a bubbly 18-year-old from Jane and Finch who hopes to become a journalist.

"What I like about journalism is that you're not just sitting at a desk for eight hours, you're getting out, exploring the world, meeting people and sharing stories. I'm a very social person and I love to be in front of the camera, so journalism seems perfect for me," she says.

Kadiatu shares how being a youth mentor in the Jane and Finch area has helped her connect with her community.

As a youth mentor at Success Beyond Limits, Kadiatu is also passionate about empowering young people in her community.

"I want to make sure youth voices are heard and taken seriously. I want to bridge that gap between youth and adults, because I feel that there's a real divide between those two worlds."

And then there's Rayan, a soft-spoken Grade 12 student from Regent Park who runs local workshops in her community to discuss issues around racism, Islamaphobia, anti-oppression and mental health challenges facing minorities.

"These are issues that not a lot of people talk about or even know how to talk about," she says. "I'm working to create open spaces where people can discuss these issues and educate others."

Rayan explains her passion for psychology and helping minority communities tackle mental health issues.

"My ultimate dream is to be a therapist or a psychiatrist and open up my own practice," she says. "There aren't many mental health supports for people living in low-income communities. I want to open up a facility where people of colour and people from low-income households can access resources and counselling."

On May 26, Kadre, Kadiatu and Rayan were among 45 young leaders from across Toronto who received the Investing in Our Diversity Scholarship which recognizes young leaders giving back to their communities. Now in its 15th year, the scholarship program is a joint partnership between Toronto Community Housing and Scadding Court Community Centre. Since its inception, over $800,000 in scholarships have been awarded to more than 300 students from across Toronto.

Guests get seated for the awards ceremony at the 15th annual Investing in Our Diversity Scholarship Gala at Dim Sum King restaurant.

Toronto Community Housing President and CEO (Interim) Greg Spearn (right) presents a scholarship to Rathesh Balendran.

The scholarships have helped students pay for postsecondary tuition and cover educational costs such as books, laptops, transportation and food.

This year's awards gala took place in downtown Toronto at Dim Sum King restaurant. The room was abuzz with excited students, proud parents, partners, sponsors, donors, patrons, past recipients and elected officials including Councillors Ana Bailão, Joe Cressy, and Mike Layton and MP Adam Vaughan.

But the real stars were the students, who were recognized for both their outstanding academic achievements and commitment to improving their communities.

Richard Tartaglia, Senior Financial Advisor at Scotiabank (centre), presented scholarships to (left to right) Samia Hassen, Fartun Abdulle, Mohamed Hirole, Hafeezat Ameen, Rayan Saied, Rathesh Balendran, Shemar Bookal, Ruwayda Ahmed and Nazifa Jaigirdar. Emcee Andrew Cox (far right) jumped in for a quick photo.

Andrea DelZotto and sponsors from Tridel (far right) presented scholarships to (left to right) Elizabeth Prowell, Emily Frimpong, Jahnelle Williams, Kaden McCulloch, Khadija Ali, Labeeb Kutty, Teania Speid and Huda Abdulahi.

Judit Alcalde and representatives from DECA presented a scholarship to Chantelle Johnson (centre).

​BE​LOW: Recipients strike a pose in our social media booth. You can find more photos on our Facebook page.
​​​Toronto Community Housing's development partner Tridel stepped up to be a title sponsor this year along with Scotiabank. Other partners and sponsors included Blaney McMurtry LLP, the Community Police Liaison Committees of 11, 14, 22, 41 and 53 divisions, Sinai Health System, Danforth East Community Association, Dentons, Unifor, and the University Health Network. Our academic partners – George Brown College, Humber College, Ontario College of Art and Design University, Ryerson University, Seneca College, University of Toronto, York University – also offer scholarship winners with the opportunity to earn a matching postsecondary scholarship in their second year.

Guests from Blaney McMurtry LLP mingle with scholarship recipient Max Reza (left).

Inspector Colin Greenaway (left) from Toronto Police Service 14 Division poses with scholarship recipient Zarqash Ali.

This year's list of recipients ranged from future pilots and engineers, to playwrights, educators and doctors, all eager to build a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

Many were excited to kick-start the next phase of their careers and start off their first year at university or college.

"I actually just got accepted to Carleton's journalism program three days ago. I'm so excited!" exclaimed Kadiatu, "it's going to be such a new experience for me, I'll be living on residence, on my own for the first time ever. I can't wait."​

Toronto Community Housing President and CEO (Interim) Greg Spearn (far left) and Vice President of Resident Community Services (Interim) Simone Atungo (far right), present (left to right) Adeeb Munas, Kadiatu Barrie, Nasteha Mohamed and Esther Kirabo with scholarships.

Councillor Mike Layton presents Kadre Gray with a scholarship

Receiving the scholarship helps ease a big financial burden on students and their families.

"It's one less thing for me to worry about. It's helping me breathe easy because my family won't have to worry about how to pay ​for my school and things like books and supplies," says Rayan.

Thanks to the scholarship program, students like Rayan, Kadiatu and Kadre are one step closer to realizing their dreams. Toronto Community Housing is proud to be home the world's future surgeons, journalists and psychiatrists.

A big thank you to all our sponsors, partners and Toronto Community Housing staff for organizing such an amazing event. Congratulations to this year's recipients: we wish you the best of luck in your achieving your academic and professional goals!​