Scholarship launches Toronto student’s dream of becoming a police officer

Scholarship launches Toronto student’s dream of becoming a police officer

February 03, 2016

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young man wearing a baseball cap and holding a sign that says "I want to be a police officer"
Photo: Scholarship alumnus Najeeb at the 2016 Investing in Our Diversity Scholarship Program's info session.

Looking back, it seems Najeeb was destined to become a police officer.

Having spent his entire life living in Toronto Community Housing, the 24-year-old has made it his mission to empower the community he calls home.

From painting Toronto Community Housing buildings as part of a "Take Back" beautification program, to teaching residents about the importance of green energy through a "Green Collar Corps" initiative, to acting as a youth mentor to the kids in his neighbourhood - Najeeb has always taken a hands-on approach to community engagement.

Growing up in the west end of the city, Najeeb says he drew inspiration from his mother.

As a kid, Najeeb watched his mother work as a Tenant Representative in their building - attending Toronto Community Housing meetings, listening to residents' concerns and engaging with staff. Najeeb credits her for igniting his passion for community service.

"I would always see her putting herself out there, helping out her community, giving back and I sort of followed in her footsteps," he says.

It was Najeeb's mother who encouraged him to apply for the Investing in Our Diversity Scholarship (IIOD) back in 2011.

The annual scholarship program, now in its fifteenth year, recognizes the work of youth involved in leadership, anti-racism, diversity or safety initiatives in their community by awarding scholarships of up to $4,000 to students entering their first year of post-secondary or trade school.

Najeeb saw the scholarship as an opportunity to kick-start his career and save some money.

"At the time, I was planning on going to Ryerson and my program was pretty expensive - I think it was around $8,000 for a year. I hoped the scholarship would help me pay off some of my tuition," he says.

Najeeb submitted his application and was one of 42 students who received the IIOD scholarship in 2011. The money allowed him to pay for his first semester of university and cover costs such as books and transportation.

After completing his first year at Ryerson, Najeeb soon realized that his real dream was to become a police officer.

"After working with Toronto Community Housing and living in my area all my life, I realized that I wanted to help people, I wanted to reach out and protect my community," Najeeb says.

He decided to transfer to the Police Foundations, using the money he had saved up thanks to the scholarship. Last May, Najeeb completed his Police Foundations training and is currently getting ready to take his assessment test in order to officially become a police officer.

Najeeb has seen first-hand how the IIOD scholarship program can open doors for youth like him.

"School is expensive and a lot of the youth living in Toronto Community Housing don't have the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education. This scholarship gives students that extra push to go after their dreams," he says.

Since 2002, the IIOD program has raised more than $800,000 to help close to 300 youth in low-income communities pursue their goals.

The program has had such a positive impact on Najeeb's life that it inspired him to push his younger sister, Aneesa, to apply for the scholarship last year.

Continuing the family tradition, Aneesa was among 46 students awarded the 2015 scholarship and is currently pursuing a nursing degree at Seneca College.

Najeeb hopes his story will inspire other Toronto Community Housing youth to pursue their passions.

"The scholarship has given me the support I needed to kick-start my career. I hope it'll help others chase their dreams too."​