Giving back to others is a powerful motivator
September 30, 2017
Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age four, Victoria DeFreitas hasn’t allowed the disease, which prevents the body from producing insulin that is a vital hormone, to interrupt her drive to achieve excellence.
The teenager graduated with honours from Chinguacousy Secondary School SciTech program that integrates a hands-on, minds-on philosophy and provides students with an interactive approach to learning.
Though busy in high school with her academics and playing soccer, rugby and badminton, DeFreitas found time to volunteer with the Hospital for Sick Children.
She was a mentor for young patients transitioning to high school and those enrolled in the creative arts program who she also assisted with their diabetes care.
“I am eternally grateful for all this hospital did for me as I have been treated here for my condition many times, said the 18-year-old. “The most I could do is give back and I derived so much pleasure from doing that.”
DeFreitas, who also volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel, was among 16 Peel high school graduates presented scholarships at the United Achievers Club of Brampton (UACB) 33rd awards ceremony recently.
Enrolled in McMaster University’s psychology, neuroscience and behaviour (PNB) program, she plans to pursue a Master’s in psychology.
The financial aid for her is timely.
“Tuition for university education is high, so every bit of funding I could get at this time helps,” said DeFreitas whose father is a Kittitian immigrant.
She and the rest of the recipients were inspired by keynote speaker Dr. Everton Gooden who is the chief of head & neck surgery at North York General Hospital (NYGH).
Migrating from Jamaica in 1975 to join his parents Kenneth and Helen who came a few years earlier to prepare the path for their three children, Gooden graduated from George Harvey Collegiate Institute and successfully pursued biochemistry and his doctor of medicine studies at the University of Toronto (U of T).
While they should be proud of their accomplishments, he reminded the young people that success is a never-ending journey.
“Your recognition this evening is a measure of your success, but it doesn’t end tonight,” said Gooden who is the chief of staff and chair of the medical advisory committee at NYGH and an assistant professor at the U of T. “In fact, it is just the beginning. Each and every one of us has the ability to achieve whatever we desire. As long as you continue to work hard, maintain your determination and commitment, anything is possible.”
Gooden, who took his mother to the event, encouraged the students to seek out role models, surround themselves with hardworking and successful people and give back.
“Giving back to others has been one of the most powerful motivators in my life,” the married father of three young children said. “It creates a powerful aura of positive energy that’s addictive. It doesn’t need to be financial as you can give back with your time…What I have also found interesting is that those that give back share very similar characteristics. They value education and generally are well educated.”
A total of 365 students have been awarded scholarships totalling nearly $360,000 since the scholarship program was launched in 1985.
This year’s winners included Kareem Elliott whose older brother, Keanu Elliott, was a recipient four years ago.
“We are the only two siblings and I am delighted to be following in his footsteps,” said the Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School valedictorian and Athlete of the Year who is enrolled in Wilfrid Laurier University’s kinesiology program.
Other recipients were Taylor Bogle who completed high school at David Suzuki Secondary School and is in Carleton University’s law program, St. Francis Xavier Secondary School graduate Rya Buckley who is pursuing life sciences studies at McMaster University, Brock University social sciences student Jenae Downes who plans be a successful criminal lawyer and law firm owner, Central Peel Secondary School graduate Ronaldo Duke who plays the cello and aspires to be a radiologist, University of Waterloo honours science program student Victoria Ezekwemba who intends to become a pharmacist and Wilfrid Laurier University student Kayla Goodridge who plans to be a music therapist.
Scholarships were also presented to Loyola Catholic Secondary School graduate Zoe Lopez who is enrolled in Sheridan College’s three-year child & youth care program, Mikaelia Miller who is in the University of Guelph psychology program, aspiring psychiatrist and Central Peel Secondary School lead violin player Candaice Newell who is at McMaster University, University of Western Ontario student Maya Simon who has an interest in media law, St. Augustine Secondary School graduate Mary Osei who is in the University of Toronto’s life sciences program and Danell Wright who graduated from Streetsville Secondary School and is enrolled in the University of Windsor’s business administration program.
Dana-Kaye Matthews and Arinze Ochuba both graduated from Turner Fenton Secondary School international baccalaureate program.
Matthews, 18, is enrolled in the University of Ottawa’s joint public administration & political science program while Ochuba is in McMaster University’s life sciences program. After completing his undergraduate degree, he plans to attend medical school and become a pediatrician.