Stellar field of high school grads ready to make their mark
August 19, 2019
Khalil Wheatle was attracted to computer coding in Grade Six.
Coding is a list of instructions given to a computer in order for it to perform desired actions.
Already filled with passion for problem solving, the Sir William Mulock Secondary School graduate wanted to know more about how computer language is used to develop websites, software and apps.
He got that opportunity this summer.
A key member of his high school Robotics team -- ranked fourth in the world in programming five years ago -- in Grades Nine through 11 when the program was scrapped, Wheatle was selected to participate in Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute three-week program in Seattle last month.
The program is for high school seniors with a passion for technology, particularly those historically under-represented in the field. Intensive, interactive and hands-on, it seeks to inspire the tech leaders and innovators of the future by supporting the study of computer science, software engineering and other closely related subjects.
Wheatle, a member of the track & field team in his first two years in high school, savoured the opportunity.
“My career goal is to work in the tech field with a company like Google or Facebook, so this is a massive opportunity for me to learn and network at the same time,” he said. “It also offers the chance to interact with some of the top young tech minds in North America.”
The Newmarket resident is following the footsteps of older brother Jordan Wheatle who is a third-year Applied Physics student at the University of Waterloo.
“He’s my role model who has set a high standard and I have no choice but to trail,” said Wheatle who is enrolled in the University of Ottawa’s Applied Science Computer Engineering program.
Encouraged by his parents Jonathan and Coren Wheatle to apply for scholarships, he was among 14 high school graduates of Jamaican heritage presented with bursaries at the 27th annual Alliance of Jamaican Alumni Associations (AJAA) awards ceremony on June 23.
The stellar field of recipients include aspiring lawyers, health care practitioners, mechanical and electrical engineers and a literarian.
Writing and reading inspire St. Augustine Catholic High School graduate Catherine Dume who is pursuing English studies at the University of Toronto.
“I am motivated to tell stories and get them published,” she said. “I have written short stories and my goal is to be a novelist.”
Dume’s favourite book is ‘Cinder’ which is a young adult science fiction novel loosely based on the classic fairytale, ‘Cinderella’.
“I just love the way the author combines what she knows about Cinderella with some modern-day elements that make the book very interesting,” she said.
Amanda Rivera, who graduated from the same high school as Dume, will hone her creative, technical and business skills at the University of Waterloo where she’s enrolled in the Global Business & Digital Arts program.
Also accepted by Ryerson, Wilfrid Laurier, Western and the University of Toronto, she chose Waterloo because of the program and familiarity.
An older sister is entering her third-year of Kinesiology studies.
“I visit her often, so I am familiar with the campus and there’s a comfort level,” said Rivera. “Also, the program I am pursuing provides a solid foundation linking creative design, globalization, business ethics, economics and marketing.”
She made her mark in high school as a volunteer, co-presiding over the ‘Helping Education in Africa: Reaching Together’ organization that raised $4,000 this year for Ugandan sister schools Sacred Heart Primary and St. Charles Lwanga Girls Training.
For Jordan Fletcher, the awards ceremony was much more than the recognition for the graduates and financial aid.
“We are the sons and daughters of Jamaican immigrants who chose to come to this country to make a better life for us,” the Harold M. Brathwaite Secondary School graduate said. “In some cases, they sacrificed a good life to come here and work hard for us to succeed. While I am grateful for the bursary, I look at this ceremony mainly as recognition for our parents’ efforts.”
Accepted into York University’s Electrical Engineering program, Fletcher is the son of Wayne Fletcher, a City of Toronto health inspector, and Andrea Fletcher who is a registered nurse.
Husband and wife filmmakers Sudz Sutherland and Jennifer Holness were at wits’ end after learning that Vaughan Road Academy was closing in 2017 after 91 years.
Rayne Sutherland was in her first week at the school that offered an International Baccalaureate program for students with a special aptitude for athletics and the arts.
“We were in panic mode,” recounted Sutherland who started Hungry Eyes Film & Television Inc. with his wife 26 years ago. “Fortunately, we knew some people at Branksome Hall and were able to get her in there. In Grade Six, she wanted to go that school, but we couldn’t send her then.”
Branksome Hall is an international baccalaureate world and university preparatory school.
The eldest of three children enjoyed the private school experience.
“It offered me many opportunities in terms of a quality education, joining clubs and being part of extra-curricular activities,” said the principal organizer of last January’s successful Toronto Black Youth Conference who is enrolled in Western University’s Health Sciences program.
With an interest in engineering, St. Marcellinus Secondary School graduate Ajiile Moodie is off to Carleton University to pursue Engineering Physics which is a challenging and elite program for students seeking to combine the strengths of both subjects.
“The program is a fit for me because it covers Applied Physics, Electronics and Nanotechnology,” he added.
Christian Murray was turned on to science at a young age while reading comic books.
One of his favourite characters was scientific visionary and engineer Tony Stark who was cast as ‘Iron Man’, a fictional superhero.
“I was really fascinated by him,” said Murray who graduated from St. Theresa of Lisieux Catholic High School and is enrolled in McMaster University’s Automation Engineering technology program.
Carleton University also accepted him.
“McMaster was my choice because the program is multidisciplinary and it would put me, I feel, in the best position to get a job,” said Murray who made the York Region Athletic Association basketball all-star team in Grade 11. “It also offers more flexibility with what I want to do.”
Other awardees were Preston Harrison who is pursuing Sociology studies at Queen’s University, Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School graduate Abigail Holmes who is enrolled in the University of Toronto’s Kinesiology program, aspiring obstetrician Charnelle Bailey who accepted an offer to attend McMaster University, Joshua Stanley who is in the University of Ottawa’s Social Sciences program, Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School graduate Tosin Lewis who is contemplating offers from Durham College and Simon Fraser University and Tionne Smith who graduated from Madonna Catholic High School and has been offered admission to Seneca College’s Nursing program.
Each year, the AJAA provides an opportunity for high school graduates to participate in an essay writing competition.
The winner was C.W Jefferys Collegiate Institute graduate Taejah Noble who is enrolled in the University of Guelph-Humber Family & Social Services program. She intends to pursue Family Law.
Social worker-turned lawyer Qadira Jackson Kouakou congratulated the graduates and offered them some advice to overcome difficulties.
“Find motivation when the going gets tough and always be resilient,” she told them.
Jackson Kouakou worked in schools, group homes and custody detention centres before enrolling in the University of Windsor law program.