Last Saturday I had the great pleasure of helping to recognize the efforts of a dozen individuals and groups at the 18th annual John C. Holland Awards.
Tellingly, the awards, which kick off Black History Month, have a strong focus on the community’s youth, with more than half the awards earned by young people.
And these are some young people.
As Hamilton Community News was a sponsor I was fortunate enough to get the privilege of presenting an award to Kambrea Cumberbatch, a young woman with boundless energy and desire to give back.
She was an honour roll student all through high school, was recognized as a Spectator athlete of the year and is a proud member of the Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra where she has not only worked hard to perfect her own skills, but gives back by mentoring younger musicians in the art of steelpan playing.
Now a student at Mohawk, Cumberbatch wants to continue her community service as a member of the Hamilton Police Service after graduation.
The other youth were no less inspiring.
Hassan Ishaq arrived in Canada in 2007 from Somalia as a refugee. With no family in Hamilton, he became self-sufficient and put himself through high school. He is a leader at NGen Youth Centre and is a respected member of the local Somali community. Like Cumberbatch, Ishaq is studying to become a police officer.
Jackson Holland Virgin not only excels academically, but also as a volunteer sitting on the Hamilton Youth Advisory Committee and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s Black History Committee.
Alexia Rookwood is a star athlete, involved in the arts and implemented the Change for Change program at Orchard Park designed to bring a smile to the face of students in need.
Michael Jobity gives his all mentally, physically and spiritually to help make Cardinal Newman a better place. He has helped to bring iMatter, an award-winning mental health and wellness program, to his classmates.
Seynab Hassan has been active in all of the communities to which she belongs working to help new Somali immigrants into school, volunteering at the Hamilton Downtown Mosque and is a leader of Westdale’s Students Bridging Borders group, which reaches beyond the school to help others in the community.
Anita McFarlane was honoured with the Lincoln Alexander Award for her work in helping to teach academic, fitness and self-awareness to students and for being an organizer of the Black Girls Summit.
Michael Abraham received the first Nelson Mandela Award for his extensive work with youth literacy, as director of programming for the Youth Action Council of the NGen Youth Centre and a facilitator of the Steel Express and Breaking Barriers break dance programs. He is currently a student at Mac with a desire to put his social justice skills to work as a social worker.
Also recognized were educator and theatre professional Amah Harris, who received the Award of Merit, speech pathologist Beverly Bronte-Tinkew, who won the Professional Achievement Award, singer and community activist Queen Cee, who received the Arts and Entertainment Award, and law firm Millar Alexander, which was awarded the Ally Award.
Congratulations to all the winners. You make all of Hamilton proud.
— Gordon Cameron is Group Managing Editor for Hamilton Community News.