When Superintendent Peter Yuen awarded $1,000 scholarships to three local high school grads for their community service, the cheques came with some free advice.
Remember your roots.
“What I heard from all of you is that you want to make changes,” said Yuen, who leads 55 Division, the local division of the Toronto Police Service.
“So go, make changes, make a difference, and make this a better place,” he added. “Because in 20 years, we’ll all be old, and you’ll be looking after us.”
Emman Haider, a Monarch Park graduate, hopes an engineering degree will help her make that difference.
“I hope to work with organizations like Engineers Without Borders in the future because I’m really passionate about social justice, and helping both local and global causes,” Haider told Yuen and the Community Police Liaison Committee that organizes the annual scholarships.
“I wanted to combine that with my interests – math and physics – so engineering is the way to go, as far I know right now.”
Already, Haider has worked as a junior journalist with Free the Children and the Toronto Star, volunteered as an elf for Community Centre 55’s Share A Christmas campaign, and helped fill 250 backpacks for children affected by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. She is now working with Engineers and Entrepreneurs to design sleeping bags for the homeless in Toronto.
Like Haider, Notre Dame’s Ruth Kayembe said she was grateful to 55 Division for recognizing the good work that young people do.
“I’ve worked really hard, and I’m glad you recognize that and see all the things I’ve done to help build my community,” said Kayembe, who helped lead a summer camp for at-risk youth in a neighbourhood where gangs, drugs, and violence were all too common.
She and four others started with repairs to a run-down basketball court, then moved on to a catering business for community events. She then took on several more projects with the Neighbourhood Youth Alliance and the Children’s Peace Theatre.
Along with Haider and Kayembe, Malvern Collegiate grad Kendall Mar was a top student who got involved in several school groups, yet she made time to help the wider community.
Besides volunteering as a counsellor at Community Centre 55, Mar was a leading member of Malvern’s contribution to the Kizuna project, a student exchange with high schools in Japan.
In Sendai, Mar heard about the many students her age who suffered great losses in the 2011 tsunami. Back in Canada, she led a campaign that raised more than $4,000 for scholarships that support Japanese students whose futures were put in jeopardy by the disaster.
Mar said she felt privileged to win the award, adding that it would go to good use this fall as she starts a psychology degree and strives toward a career in medicine.
“Again, thank you for your support,” Mar said. “And for your confidence in my future.”