Continue striving for excellence ‘ in all that you do,’ students told

By Lincoln DePradine

From left: Brampton Mayor, Patrick Brown and Rasulan Q. Hoppie and

A senior education official told a group of young people on  the weekend of the importance of having a strong character and the need to develop qualities that foster “healthy, positive relationships’’.

“If you stay true to yourself and of good character, you will always arrive at precisely where you’re supposed to be,’’ said Rasulan Q. Hoppie, coordinating principal of secondary education in the Peel District School Board.

“You may change your goals and thus, your path may change as well, and that’s okay. Because if you’re of good character, then regardless of your goal, there will always be a good destination.’’

Hoppie made the remarks on Saaturday at the 36th Annual Scholarship & Recognition Awards of the United Achievers’ Club (UAC) of Brampton.

The event, held virtually this year because of the Coronavirus pandemic, also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the club, whose objectives include raising the “profile and consciousness of Black and Caribbean communities in the wider society’’; and also providing “effective and meaningful role models’’ for young people.

The UAC was commended by Brampton’s Mayor, Patrick Brown, who said he was “proud’’ of the work the club has been doing helping people.

More than a dozen scholarships and awards were presented for post-secondary studies in fields such as sociology, social work, zoology, fashion design, biomedical mechanical engineering, commercial aviation management, chemical engineering and philosophy.

The recipients were Genna Collins; Zaniq King; Syane James; Christiana Takyi; Markos Brown; Jalen Hylton; Sarah Pittiman; N. Karishma Singh; Sabina Roopnarine; Jonathan Wright; Carol Thompson; Rashad James; Ty Kaloczi; and Keianah Madray.

The awardees are “exceptional young men and women’’, who were recognized for their academic achievements, extracurricular activities and community work, said UAC president Marva Hemmings.

“I wish you continued success as you pursue the career you have chosen and may God bless all your future endeavours,’’ Hemmings told the award recipients. “We feel it’s very important to assist our youth in pursuing their life’s goal by completing their postsecondary education.’’

Hemmings paid tribute to parents and guardians, who “successfully guided and encouraged these young people to strive to fulfill their academic dreams. Well done, parents; well done, guardians’’.

Hoppie, in the keynote address, described the evening’s ceremony as “truly a momentous occasion’’ that “embodies the spirit of resilience and the standard of excellence we, as a community, are known for’’.

“Today marks the culmination of many years of hard work and dedication; of sacrifice and frustration; of personal victories and shared successes,’’ added Hoppie, who grew up in Scarborough to a Jamaican mother and a Guyanese father.

However, he cautioned the students that their grades and overall school performance are not what defines them.

“Your experience has shaped you but your character defines you. In the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.’’

The young people, as scholarship recipients, “have clearly demonstrated that you have the intelligence, but what of your character? It’s who you are when no one is looking; it’s also who you are when all eyes are on you’’, said Hoppie, a Queen’s University graduate who once taught in Japan.

“Character has led us to this precise moment in history where we find ourselves in a generational fight against systemic structures that have intentionally orchestrated violence and deprivation, and tried to instill an overall sense of worthlessness,’’ he said.

“Our collective character, as African Diaspora peoples, has enabled us to withstand the wrongs of anti-Black racism that we have faced in every facet of life and yet have held our heads high in daily triumph. Character has allowed us to bear witness to generations of greatness in every industry, sector, segment and facet of society.’’

Hoppie, who also is a mentor and advocate for equity and social justice, encouraged the students to continue striving for excellence “in all that you do’’.

“Each of you was made for more,’’ he said. “Despite the uncertainty that we’re faced with, locally and globally; despite the unfortunate and ever-present reality of anti-Black racism, your presence here is a testament to all that we, as a community, shall overcome. You, we, are multidimensional people, capable of excellence.’’