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'Black students rise': 10 graduates recognized for excellence in 2021 NACCA Scholarship Award ceremony

Recipients of the scholarship awards are high school graduates from across York Region
Aug. 5, 2021
Aileen Zangouei

Students from across York Region were recognized and celebrated for their excellence in the third annual Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association (NACCA) Scholarship Award ceremony.

The ceremony took place virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was hosted by St. Andrew's College.

The chair and founder of NACCA, Jerisha Grant-Hall, participated in the event, and shared a statement expressing the core of NACCA:

"At NACCA, we are a group of like-minded individuals who are committed to sharing and celebrating our stories, the stories that form the foundation of our collective history. Our vision to be a community that is strong and connected, where Black youth are connected to their past while firmly stepping into the future, and where the town of Newmarket environment are welcoming and supportive," Grant-Hall said.

She continued by referencing a 2020 Statistics Canada report that focused on "Canada's Black population" in regards to education, labour and resilience.

According to the report, most Black youth would like to obtain a university degree, but proportionally, they are less likely to think they will obtain one. In 2016, a survey was conducted and the results showed that 94 per cent of Black youth aged 15 to 25 said that would like to get a bachelor's degree or higher education, however only 60 per cent thought that they could.

"Black students increasingly face systemic barriers to higher education in our society. But in spite of the inequitable systems, Black students experience, they rise. Black students rise," Grant-Hall said.

A pre-recorded message from Mayor John Taylor was also shown during the ceremony.

"This is an exciting day and a very important day in the lives of these youth who are being recognized, but also in the lives of our community members because this is a chance to celebrate excellence in youth and we know deeply that youth are the future of our community," Taylor said.

"We need to encourage and engage and celebrate youth achievement excellence at every opportunity we have, and also we have to look to address systemic barriers in our communities and our systems to combat anti-Black racism, or any type of prejudice, to ensure that every individual has an equal and equitable chance at success and advancement," Taylor said.

The 10 students from across York Region who were the recipients in the 2021 NACCA scholarship award ceremony are:

Alexis Agyei-Gyamera

Crystal Ali

Gabrielle Francesca Dume

Geena Melbourne

Ifeoluwa Frank Oshodi

Jordan Buchanan

Kaylah Christie

Lireesa Gokhool-Jefferson

Natalie Tutu

Prevail Awoleye

MPP Christine Elliott for Newmarket-Aurora also pre-recorded a statement, and MP Tony Van Bynen was also in attendance at the ceremony.

Since 2019, NACCA has awarded 21 students across the region with scholarships, and distributed $24,000 in scholarship funds to deserving students.