Second try for GraceKennedy's birthright program a success

Second try for GraceKennedy's birthright program a success

May 19, 2017

The second time is a charm for Tianna Thomas.

Failing to make the cut last year as the Canadian candidate for the Grace Kennedy summer internship program in Jamaica, the Brock University student applied again and was selected.

She will join students from the United States and England in the six-week birthright program started in 2004 to help broaden the horizons of second and third generation Jamaican university students living in Canada, the United States and England.

“I am someone who doesn’t give up without a fight, do I didn’t bow my head and sulk after missing out a year ago,” she said. “I was determined to be a participant in this program because it’s a good way to reconnect with my heritage.”

Born at home in Jamaica’s Washington Gardens, Thomas came to the Greater Toronto Area at age four to join her father, Lester Thomas, and his wife.

“My parents gave me a chance to make the most of the educational and opportunities available here and I am eternally gratefully to them,” said the Fletcher’s Meadow Secondary School graduate and 2014 United Achievers Club of Brampton scholarship recipient.

The student council member was the Athlete of the Year in her final year of high school. She was on the track & field, flag football, ultimate frisbee and wrestling teams.

In her freshman year in university, Thomas won the Roots African Caribbean Society (RACS) cultural pageant as the Miss Jamaica representative.

“That pageant helped to build my confidence and, in response to my question to highlight something good about Jamaica, I seized the opportunity to talk about the excellent educational system,” said the RACS president. “When I came to Canada, I knew how to read while the kids in my kindergarten class couldn’t do that. They were still playing with blocks.”

Thomas and the other three interns will work in a GraceKennedy subsidiary linked to their field of study, therefore granting them hands on experience in a wide range of industries and exposure to Jamaican culture.

“I am so excited for this opportunity in a career-related working experience,” said the business administration student whose mother, Zerline Wynter, migrated to the United States last February. “I have already connected with two of the interns who are just as thrilled as I am and we just can’t wait to get down there.”

Thomas plans to work with a company that invests in its community.

“I would also like to launch an event to celebrate the accomplishments of young people,” she said. “I think it’s important to let them know we appreciate the good things they are doing and encourage them to do even more.”

The one-month internship runs from July 4 to August 6.

Grace Kennedy launched the internship program a decade ago to help students in the Diaspora enhance their professional skills while reconnecting with their heritage.

The company’s chief executive officer, Douglas Orane, conceived the idea for the program while helping a family member, who was attending an American university at the time, fulfill his dream of scaling Jamaica’s famous Blue Mountain.

Memory of Dudley Laws celebrated with awards

Memory of Dudley Laws celebrated with awards

Minorities now head Canada's largest labour union

Minorities now head Canada's largest labour union