Huge scholarship for Pickering High School graduate
August 13, 2019
Since Grade Nine, Risann Wright has had her eyes on the prize.
That was when she became aware of the TD Community Leadership scholarship awarded to high school graduates who have demonstrated leadership in enhancing their community.
The scholarship has a value of up to $70,000 and includes as much as $10,000 annually for tuition, $7,500 yearly for living expenses, summer employment for up to four years, mentorship and networking opportunities.
To be considered for the prestigious award presented every year to 20 graduates across Canada, candidates are also required to have a minimum overall grade average of 75 per cent in their most recent completed school year.
Just imagine the thrill when Wright learnt through email last March that she was one of this year’s recipients.
“Pandemonium broke out in our home and everyone was jumping and screaming,” the Pickering High School graduate recounted. “When the initial jubilation subsided, reality set in that I had to keep the good news a secret for almost three months. That was really hard.”
There was heightened excitement at her high school when the news broke.
“I literally screamed out loud,” said outgoing Vice-Principal Melissa Hunte who has been promoted to Principal at Maxwell Heights Secondary School in Oshawa. “I met Risann when I came here two years ago and has been very impressed with everything she does. She’s outgoing, personable, engaging and someone who I am always in touch with to get a pulse of our school community.”
Not having to worry about summer employment to pay school fees or repaying student loans are burdens Wright is happy she doesn’t have to bear for now.
“I have peace of mind in that I don’t have to concern myself about anything other than just focusing on my studies until I get to law school,” said the aspiring lawyer who is off to McGill University to pursue Economics & Political Science studies. “That’s such a good feeling. There is no excuse for me not excelling in my post-secondary studies.”
Wright chose McGill – ranked the third top university in Canada last year -- over the University of Toronto, Queen’s, Western and York who all accepted her.
“Montreal is Canada’s second largest city with a rich history and one of the top cities for students,” she pointed out. “Also, it is a bilingual place and that’s going to help me develop my knowledge of the French language.”
The older of two siblings was very engaged in school and the community in the last four years.
Concerned that far too many Black males aren’t graduating, she developed a high school mentorship program – Targetted Vision – to help them access role models and mentors.
The program is being expanded to other schools.
“Too many of our boys are underperforming and I don’t believe that anyone should be left behind because they don’t have access to opportunities and resources to succeed,” Wright said.
She founded an equity committee and social justice club – Breaking Barriers – at her high school and was the Prime Minister of Student Government and a Durham District School Board (DDSB) Student Trustee representing students among policy makers.
The three Student Trustees advocate for the needs of their communities, explain the policies and decisions of the DDSB to residents and govern for the provision of curriculum, facilities and human and financial resources in addition to setting policy.
Wright also helped establish the Ajax Constituency Youth Council that brings youths together to engage with the federal political process.
Her strident advocacy and activism caught the attention of Ajax Member of Parliament Mark Holland.
“It’s so inspiring to see youth being active within their community and engaged with others to discuss important societal issues,” he noted.
Pickering High School student Principal Randy Pennant predicts Wright will be famous.
“She has brought an amazing student voice to this school in her four years,” he said. “Her matureness, thoughtfulness and ability to include all students in the process of student voice is really amazing.”
Raised by selfless parents who are community-oriented provided a template for their daughter to thrive and succeed.
Richard and Sandra Wright are Jamaican immigrants.
“They have been extremely supportive of me along the way and they are my role models,” said Wright who enjoys playing the piano and did voice training up until Grade Eight at the Royal Conservatory of Music. “They embody leadership and service in everything they do and they always stress the importance of helping others and giving back.”
She plans to take a break this summer by doing some volunteering before heading to university next month.