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HWDSB Students Celebrated for Black Excellence at 2023 Holland Awards

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HWDSB Students Celebrated for Black Excellence at 2023 Holland Awards

Since 1996, the Reverend John C Holland Awards has celebrated the heritage of Hamilton’s Black community, with a particular focus on social, economic, and cultural contributions to the City.HWDSB Student Winners at John C. Holland Awards

Each year, Hamilton Black History Council joins with the wider community to celebrate these accomplishments of youth and also acknowledge the contributions of community members. The Holland Awards has become one of the premier events in the community and a valued symbol of achievement, with over 200 scholarships and awards to Black youth in Hamilton.

On February 18, 2023, community members gathered virtually for the 27th edition of the Reverend John C Holland Awards.

HWDSB was well represented at the event, with numerous students nominated for awards and scholarships! See below to learn about some of the winners from HWDSB, or visit The Hamilton Spectator’s website for a full list.

Chanice Olokesusi
Nelson Mandela Social Justice Scholarship

Chanice Olokesusi is a student at Saltfleet High School passionate about mental well-being and social justice. Her involvement in school clubs such as Saltfleet’s Inclusion and Equity for Students of Colour Committee and the StormLink Crew — which works to help Grade 9 students adjust to life in high school — has seen her experience first-hand just how important it is that students feel supported through mental health troubles. Olokesusi is also part of the school’s Writers Club, penning on topics such as racism, suicide and abuse. In an effort to continue helping others, she plans to pursue a business humanities degree at McMaster University.

Serenity Thompson
Rev. George Horton Scholarship

Serenity Thompson is a student at Bernie Custis Secondary School and writer of poetry who has strongly advocated for women’s rights in their school and community. They study at the school’s non-profit Special High Skills Major program (SHSM) and gained great knowledge about women’s struggles by working alongside, strong, independent, local female leaders. After enduring a difficult journey of self-identification and acceptance, Thompson has a goal of practising self-love and assisting other students who struggle with their identity.

Abraham Oroma
Immigrants Matter Scholarship

Abraham Oromais a natural student leader at Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School who moved to Canada from Uganda in 2019. Boasting an average of over 90 per cent, the hard working student has excelled in his grades while juggling other commitments such as working part-time and tutoring fellow classmates in math. Oroma is also member of the school’s soccer team and serves as a church leader. Overcoming many challenges as a newcomer, he has a deep desire to help others.

Yasmeen Elkheir
Dr. Ethilda “Tilly” Johnson — Business/Entrepreneurship Bursary

Yasmeen Elkheir, student at Nora Frances Henderson Secondary School, is the first person in her family to attend school in Canada, showing great academic drive by overcoming the challenge of learning a new language. A participant in SHAD Canada — a STEM-based, pre-university program for select high school students — Elkheir was awarded the SHAD Cup after developing an app that uses artificial intelligence to detect and minimize cyberbullying. Additionally, she has completed the CS50 Artificial Intelligence course held through Harvard University.

Olivia Purnell
Tune-In Foundation Bursary

Olivia Purnell is an extremely talented musician with a bright future as a singer. Studying at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s Program of the Arts, Purnell is part of the school’s general band and jazz band, choir and small group ensemble while also doubling as a soloist. Additionally, she has performed for seniors in the community, including a rendition of her own, original piece dubbed “Shatter.” Purnell plans to attend Humber College’s Bachelor of Music program next fall.

Youth Achievement Bursary Winners

Suzanne Abdullah
Suzanne Abdullah, student at Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School, learned how to code on her own at nine and has been fascinated with technology, digital music production and game development ever since. She boasts a 90-per-cent grade average and is involved in her school’s student leadership group and eco-summit team.

Cynthia Oyogo
Cynthia Oyogo is an executive member of student council at Bernie Custis Secondary School, playing a pivotal role in kick-starting new traditions like the Winter Semi-Formal CultureFest. She has received a principal’s honours award for her 90-per-cent average, and is involved in several extracurricular activities.

Cyrena Hamilton
Cyrena Hamilton is a student at Westmount Secondary School whose love for literacy was sparked by opening up about her own learning struggles. Musically gifted, she has also written and recorded melodies to help bring smiles and joy to kids during COVID-19. Her songs were played in local preschools, elementary schools and nursing homes.

Khairiya Haji
Khairiya Haji is a student council vice president and honour roll student at Bernie Custis Secondary School who has shown great leadership skills through hosting dances, fundraisers and activity days. Additionally, she is a member of her school’s basketball team and volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club.

Jaycee Cote
Jaycee Cote, a recent graduate of Westmount Secondary School, was an Indigenous Student Trustee at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board who advocated for safe and caring spaces for students of colour. An honour roll student, Jaycee received the DECA Rising Star Award and Breakout Award.

Derron Alleyne
Derron Alleyne, student at Westmount Secondary School, is an instructor in the Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra who has competed in music festivals across the province. He is a member of the 2347 Argyll Cadet Corps, where he won the Lord Strathcona Medal for outstanding performance, leadership and dedication.

Shante Paddy
Shante Paddy is a first-generation Canadian from Guyana who has a deep passion for the arts and volunteering. A talented musician, Paddy is a tenor saxophone player who awarded Saltfleet High School’s Musician of the Year Award in 2022.

Congratulations to these HWDSB students on winning big at this year’s Holland Awards. We want to also congratulate all the HWDSB award winners and nominees. You are all doing incredible work in your communities and we hope you continue to achieve great things.

Here is another link to The Hamilton Spectator website, where you can find the full list of nominees and winners. You can also visit the Reverend John C Holland Awards website to learn more about the event, as well as Hamilton Black History Council.

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2023.
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