Our winners are Abinayaa Parameswaran ( Forest Hill CI);
Bernadine Bartlette (Downsview Secondary School);
Taejah Noble ( CW Jeffreys CI), and
Yusra Habibiy (David and Mary Thomson CI).
Read more about our winners below.
Abinayaa Parameswaran is a deeply thoughtful student at Forest Hill Collegiate who will be attending Carleton University in Ottawa to study Global and International Studies. Abinayaa is a dedicated Bharathanatyam dancer and gardener, indicating her broad interests and expertise. Fueled by the experiences of her parents, who were not able to pursue their educations, who faced civil war in Sri Lanka and often experienced racism, Abinayaa has developed a strong sense of social justice and the central role for anyone of a good education. She says “Post-secondary studies will be the only way in which I can be at peace with everything my family has gone through for these opportunities in Canada. I have heard my parents talk about their regrets without an education and the closest thing I can get them to that dream of an education is getting a quality education for myself.” Although Abinayaa will tell you that she is just learning how to use her voice to raise issues at school and the community, others would say that she is quickly becoming an expert. Regardless, she always gives credit to others, the true sign of a leader of great promise.
Bernadine Bartlette is a determined student who is graduating from Downsview Secondary School and will be attending Sir Wilfred Laurier University in Kitchener to study Political Science. Bernadine has a deep passion for understanding the world and how it works. She writes with subtlety and depth about complex issues. She seeks clarity but not at the cost of oversimplifying. This wisdom of thought comes from recognizing that intellect and emotion, capacity and confidence are inextricably linked. While her engagement with the world is innate to her being, she has had to exercise it vigorously to overcome what life has thrown at her. She has had moments in her life where she wanted to give up, but there is something inside her, a kind of bravery, that will not let her quit. As she would tell you, “It is an insult to the universe to believe you can predict all possible outcomes, and it's an insult to yourself to give up on goals and aspirations because you don't understand how it will happen.”
Taejah Noble is a dynamic community-minded student who is graduating from C. W. Jeffreys Collegiate and will be attending Guelph/Humber University to study Family and Social Services with a minor in Justice Studies. Taejah is a healer, first of herself and then of others. When many of us face extreme challenges, we turn against ourselves in an attempt to manage; Taejah is no different. However, she quickly understood how unproductive that instinct could be. To help herself, Taejah understood she should help others. She is a strong advocate for inspiring people to use their struggles as leverage to be stronger. She believes that we must accept the inevitability of adversity and focus on our capability of determining its impact. Her work as a mentor, a student leader and as a high-achieving academic have brought her high praise from her teachers. Who wouldn’t praise her when Taejah explains, “I must give credit to my barriers as they have shaped me as a person and influenced me to remove those similar obstacles for others in any way that I can.”
Yusra Habibiy is a charismatic, hard-working student who is graduating from David and Mary Thomson Collegiate and will be studying engineering. Born in Toronto after her family fled war in Afghanistan, Yusra has embraced the best of her family’s heritage while absorbing the opportunities that Canada offers. Yusra works hard, not only for herself, but also for what she knows her capacities can do for others. She understands that the privilege to exercise her right to education is not available to many females around the world; she wants to change that by demonstrating that a female engineer can make an impact. Engineering is not just a skill; it is a tool of empowerment, as are the skills of leadership. Yusra’s positivity and energy are infectious and make all around her more ambitious for themselves and their communities. You get a sense of the kind of person Yusra is when she says “I want to demonstrate that Afghan girls can achieve great things, and that our Canadian home is the ideal environment for us to realize our potential, not only for ourselves, but to give back to the society that welcomed us.”