Scholarship recipient is a rising star
September 14, 2017
Some people are just content to get to university, do their course work and graduate.
Not Kai Butterfield.
In her first semester at the University of Waterloo last fall, she was a peer leader supporting a cluster of first-year arts & business students in their transition through mentorship and referrals to appropriate campus services.
When that assignment was finished, Butterfield spent five months at Humber College providing students with guidelines to prepare an essay and also instructing them on how to structure core writing assignments.
At the completion of her first year in university four months ago, the youth leader took on the role of research assistant for the institution’s Digital Oral Histories for Reconciliation (DOHR) project that examines the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children (NSHCC).
Opened in 1921 as a welfare institution for Black children who were segregated from White-only religious orphanages and industrial schools, NSHCC residents suffered the effects of institutionalized racism and abuse during the nearly 70 years of operation.
Three years ago, Premier Stephen McNeil formally apologised to residents on behalf of the province and called for an inquiry.
The history education collaboration among community stakeholders, academics and educators will create virtual reality oral histories with former residents and with the NSHCC restorative inquiry to be used in history classrooms.
“This is very important and critical work that’s been done and I am delighted to be part of this project,” said Butterfield who is assisting with the documentation.
These days, the teenager is feeling good about herself and she has every right to.
Last month, she was one of five recipients of scholarships awarded by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge at its annual two-day convention in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
This is the third straight year Butterfield has received a scholarship from the lodge.
“When the community invests in your education, you know that you are being counted on to do great things and that includes giving back and helping to pull up others along the way,” she said. “That’s why I am always motivated to assist wherever and whenever I can.”
In addition to helping to fund her university education, Butterfield utilized some of the money to travel to Cambodia last year on a goodwill mission.
She was a member of the Reach Out Volunteers team that spent a month in the Southeast Asian country.
“That was an amazing experience,” said Butterfield who is the president of her university’s Peace & Conflict Studies Society. “I taught in a village school, helping students learn English. I want to be a teacher, so it was an opportunity for me to build my skills in a different environment while seeing another part of the world. The scholarship provided me with the funds to try something new and interesting.”
She said her passion for teaching comes from her mother, Pamela Gordon, who is an elementary school teacher in Peel.
Born in England, Gordon was raised in Guyana before coming to the GTA.
Butterfield, whose father is an immigrant from Bermuda, graduated from Humberview Secondary School where she played rugby and was a four-year member of the ‘Reach for the Top’ trivia team.
“I have always been academically oriented and sometimes it’s difficult in high school to find people and an extracurricular activity outlet where you can be focussed on academics while affirming an interest in learning about different things,” the former Peel District School Board educational assistant said. “As part of our ‘Reach for the Top’ team, I was able to expand my knowledge and still be in a social environment.”
Choosing the University of Waterloo over the University of Toronto because of its peace and conflict program that explores why conflict and violence occurs and how conflict can be transformed by collaborative-decision-making to accomplish constructive ends, Butterfield plans to pursue a Master’s in teaching at the U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
“I also want to create curriculum that’s more inclusive for Black students,” added Butterfield who has an interest in children’s literature and plans to publish her first book shortly.
The other scholarship recipients were Raven Downey who is enrolled in York University’s psychology studies program, Dana Green-Campbell who is a life sciences student at McMaster University, Vanessa Rodriques who is in the U of T’s psychological & health science program, University of Ottawa health science student Aliya White, Tajae Gustavus who is at Ryerson University pursuing journalism studies and Melique Daley who is in the University of Waterloo maths program.
With Ottawa resident Headley Lewis as its Grand Master, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge presented $1,200 to each university student.
The lodge also made donations to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada and Prostate Cancer Canada and celebrated past Grand Master Arthur Downes who turned 90 during the convention.
The oldest former Masonic lodge leader in Ontario and one of Canada’s first Black Grand Masters, Downes was among a group of five, including late lawyer B.J. Spencer Pitt and Canadian Second World War Veteran Lester Brown who died in September 2013 at age 92, who joined Eureka Lodge #20 on February 2, 1949.
Downes’ masonic affiliation includes stints as Worshipful Master of Eureka Lodge #20, past potentate of Hadji Temple #61, trustee of Scottish Rite United Supreme Council northern jurisdiction, honorary past imperial potentate of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Orient of Eastern Canada illustrious deputy and Southern Jurisdiction Sovereign Grand Inspector General.
A Naomi chapter past patron and life member, he has been a member of the Order of the Eastern Star since 1954 and an Ezekiel chapter excellent high priest.
In addition to his lodge affiliation, Downes is a retired Justice of the Peace with extensive community involvement. He’s a former Ontario Hospital Association director, Anglican Synod lay delegate, Humber College lecturer, Senegal’s honorary consul general for 16 years up until 2009 and founding chair of the board of director of Doctors Hospital Foundation, now Kensington Foundation.
The holder of a Doctor of Letters from Mary Holmes College in Mississippi, Downes is the vice-president of the Brampton Symphony Orchestra.