Peel educator donates scholarships in father's name
July 26, 2018
Being referred to as ‘strange’ or ‘different’ doesn’t bother Central Peel Secondary School graduate Julia-Jane Johnson.
She loves watching classic movies and is learning Portuguese after vacationing in the southwestern European country last year.
By the way, Johnson also has an interest in architecture which is a male-dominated field.
The quiet teenager stood out as the only female among six high school graduates awarded Franklyn Parker Memorial scholarships in Mississauga.
Enrolled in Ryerson University’s interior design program, Johnson is following in the footsteps of her mother – Gabrielle Johnson – who is an interior designer.
The family resided in Barbados, her mother’s birth country, for a decade before returning to Canada in 2016.
“I took her to my workplace (Archers Hall Design Centre) during the summer and that’s when she fell in love with decorating and interior designing,” her mother said. “I am not surprised she has an interest in that area and is pursuing it.”
A member of her high school Yearbook Club and a volunteer with the Aim High Management Program, Johnson’s favourite classic movie is ‘Pride & Prejudice’ which is a 2005 romantic drama film depicting five sisters from an English family of landed gentry dealing with issues of marriage, morality and misconception.
“I just like the overall acting and the girls seemed to be of very high integrity which is something that’s constantly being preached,” she said.
Joshua Tulloch, a relative of Michael Tulloch who was the first Black judge appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, was the beneficiary of the first scholarship recognising students excelling in STEM (science, technology, engineering & mathematics) subjects.
The 18-year-old Mayfield Secondary School honour roll graduate enters the University of Waterloo in September to study actuarial science and jazz.
Enrolled in the regional arts program that offers specialized courses to artistically gifted students, Tulloch – who has been playing the saxophone since the fourth grade and is a swim instructor -- said high school had its challenges.
“I had a heavy workload in the last four years to balance and that was quite testing at times,” he pointed out.
Despite the grind, Tulloch averaged 92.8 per cent.
Scholarships were also awarded to Gavin Crawford, Clayonte Gilroy, Seymour Irons and Kevin Hong.
Crawford, who has a passion for working with kids with autism, graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School and is pursuing political science & law in university while Gilroy – the product of Ghanaian and Jamaican immigrants – completed high school at Castlebrooke Secondary and is off to Carleton University to study forensic psychology.
Irons and Hong, graduates of Central Peel Secondary School, are pursuing theatre and life sciences studies at Queen’s University and McGill University respectively.
The scholarship program emerged in 2013 after a brief interaction between Central Peel Secondary School teacher & guidance counsellor Audrey Parker and two students – Tristan Coley and Samantha Edie – who were graduating that year.
“On my way out of the parking lot, I saw these students who had done well academically and asked them if they were receiving scholarships,” she recounted. “They said ‘no’. I knew they worked extremely hard and I felt they should be rewarded in some way as they set out on the next phase of their academic journey.”
A few days later, Parker invited 50 of her friends to a backyard dinner to raise money to help fund the students’ post-secondary education.
“That worked out so well that I just couldn’t stop there,” said Parker who migrated from Jamaica in 1972.
A total of 33 students have been awarded scholarships in the last six years.
Candidates are selected based mainly on need and their commitment to give back.
“If someone calls me to say they know a young person in school that’s working hard, doing a lot of community service and is interested in going to college or university, that student automatically becomes a contender for a scholarship and I will find a way to help them,” said Parker who spent five years at Lincoln Alexander Secondary School before transferring to Central Peel 12 years ago.
She enlists the help of other educators to make the decision.
The scholarships are presented in the name of Parker’s father who died in Jamaica in 1979.
“He was an accountant,” she said. “I didn’t cry when he passed away because I was in my teens and I really didn’t come to grips with his death.”
The tears flowed 30 years later when her favourite entertainer, Michael Jackson, died.
“I was driving and I just couldn’t stop crying after Jackson’s death was announced,” Parker added. “All the emotions came pouring out and I was finally able to cry for my dad too.”
Retired Canadian freestyle wrestler and entrepreneur Ohenewa Akuffo was the keynote speaker at the fundraising awards ceremony.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the 158-lb category told the graduates they are unique because of their difference.
“Entering a male dominated sport, I recognized I had something great to give,” said the two-time Pan Am Games silver medallist and Brampton Sports Hall of Fame inductee. “When I became the youngest female in Canada at age 17 to make the national senior team, I knew I had started my difference that would pave the way for other females to take up the sport and be successful.”
Akuffo encouraged them to diligently pursue their dreams and never give up on themselves.