MACCA continues tradition of support for students
December 17, 2018
Trying out for the basketball team in Grade Nine, Joshua Fearon tore his anterior cruciate ligament and was sidelined for a considerable period.
The debilitating injury ended his dream of playing the sport at a high level.
“It was a very humbling experience,” he recalled.
With one door closed, another one quickly opened for Fearon who is the only Black student in his classes at the University of Waterloo where he’s studying mechatronics engineering.
“I decided to focus on academics, realizing it can’t be taken away from you,” he said.
Mechatronic engineers create smart machines that are aware of their surroundings and can make decisions. The machines include robots, self-driving cars and other cognitive computing systems that are able to make decisions and solve problems without human intervention.
“I didn’t want to go into just a mechanical or electrical field,” Fearon pointed out. “This is the perfect combination of mechanical, electrical and software engineering. I enjoy problem solving and the emphasis on innovation was also appealing.”
The first-year university student aspires do an MBA and work with one of the large multinational technological companies like Google and Apple or Amazon which is an electronic commerce and cloud-computing firm.
The second of four children is proud of the role his parents – immigrants from Jamaica and Guyana – played in his development.
“They worked very hard to raise us the right way,” he said. “It wasn’t easy because I and my siblings are close in terms of age. They attended my basketball games and piano recitals and accompanied me on my university visits when I was thinking about which one to attend. When I chose Waterloo, they supported my decision.”
The St. Robert Catholic High School graduate was among six students from his high school to receive scholarships at the Markham African Caribbean Canadian Association (MACCA) 31st annual awards on November 17.
Fearon was the recipient of a scholarship presented by first-time donor Winston Douglas whose daughter, Sarah Douglas, was a beneficiary last year. She’s a second-year life sciences student at Queen’s University.
“When I was here last year, I saw the impact the scholarships had in motivating and inspiring young people,” said the Jamaican immigrant who works in informational technology sales and consulting. “I thought it was important for me to pay forward and I will support the program as long as I could.”
The other St. Robert scholarship winners were Danica Millard-Small who is pursuing child & youth care studies at George Brown College, Tahiyah-Amenah Johnson who is in Humber College’s police foundations program, Bernadette Mukendi who is studying social sciences at McMaster University, Odinaka Ume-Onyido who is at Ryerson University pursuing economics studies and Jhanae Ross who is majoring in biological sciences at the University of Guelph.
In the last two years, York Regional Police officer Amaree Watkis and his business partner presented scholarships. When SilverBack Bullion Inc. was dissolved, the 15-year cop decided to continue supporting the scholarship program on his own.
“I assist MACCA with some of their summer programming, so I have seen first-hand the great work this organization is doing,” he said. “This is about giving back to my community and supporting an organization led by Pat Howell who is a reflection of my mom. Pat is very humble and walks quietly, but she carries a big stick.”
Raised in the Jane & Finch community, Watkis was inspired to pursue policing by his aunt, Ingrid Berkeley-Brown, who is a deputy chief with Peel Regional Police and Canada’s highest -ranking female Black police officer.
“When she came to our home and I saw how much she enjoyed her job, I said that is what I am going to do,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be a police officer since the age of five.”
Watkis’ scholarship recipient was Paris Dryden who graduated from St. Elizabeth Catholic High School and is enrolled in the University of Toronto’s business technology management program.
“In high school, I auditioned for the art program and got into visual arts,” she said. “I took it all four years and loved it. By the end, I got tired of art and then is when business came up. I chose Ryerson because they have a solid business and technology management program and a fantastic co-op program that offers 16 months of work experience. With all of that, I figured I would be better prepared for the work environment.”
Scholarships were also presented to Naomi Opia-Evans who is pursuing biochemistry studies at the University of Waterloo, Reannah Ennis who is enrolled in Ryerson University’s business management program, Calia Palmer who is at the University of Ottawa studying commerce, Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School graduate Oluwatitomi Adebajo who is in the University of Western Ontario’s actuarial science program, aspiring teacher & professional artist Ashlei Stewart who is pursuing visual arts studies at York University, Shanel Tucker who intends to become a nurse, Talmiya Phillips who is pursuing psychology studies, York University financial & business economics student Andrique White, Kishana Smith who is in the University of Toronto’s kinesiology program, Sara Minnot who plans to study law after graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University where she’s majoring in sociology, Tolu Bankole who is pursuing a computer science degree at Lakehead University, McMaster University psychology, neuroscience & behaviour student Drew McFayden, Deneisha Hammith who is at the University of Guelph studying biological sciences and Mohamed Ahmed who is in the University of Ireland’s five-year medical program.
Born in Saudi Arabia to Sudanese parents, Ahmed – who graduated from Markham District High School -- and his family came to Canada in 2010.
His father, Adil Saeed, is a cardiologist while his mother, Manal Ahmed, is a medical doctor. They are working in Saudi Arabia after being unable to secure licenses to practice in Canada. A cousin, Faisal Hamour, is a heart surgeon in Niagara Falls.
Cecil Roach, the York Region District School Board co-ordinating superintendent of equity & engagement, said MACCA is an integral part of community development.
“For those who aren’t getting scholarships, it is important for them because they can see they too can achieve,” he said. “For tonight’s recipients, it’s more than just a financial boost. It lets them know the organization has high expectations of them and is there to celebrate and support them.”
Since 1987, MACCA – with solid support of generous donors – has presented 335 scholarships worth $289,750.