TDSB students have their say about the Impact Awards


Top left -right: Kolade A, Ajani J, Rishi B, Kiara B, Angelika B, Hadassah M / Front row left – right: Kai Gordon (Graduation Coach for Black Students), Opeyemi A, Naomi M

Eight secondary students from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) were asked to attend the 2022 Impact Awards. 

Following the ceremony, the students were asked to provide their reflections on the evening. They were the surprise guests of Colleen Russell-Rawlins, Director of Education at the TDSB, the recipient of the 2022 Impact Award for Educational Leadership.

Distributed among the entries in this special section are some of the students’ reflections on the ceremony in their own words.

Rishi B (Gr. 9, Student Equity Collective)

The 2022 Impact Awards certainly made an impact on me! I had such a fun and educational time getting to know the real heroes in our communities. Usually, we focus on people who have a “bigger” name, but the Impact Awards showcased local (Canadian) individuals who are working hard to create positive changes within their communities.

I was inspired by everyone, from the host (Itah Sadu), to the performers (Dave McLaughlin and Mala Harrispersad), to the award recipients including Toronto District School Board Director of Education Ms. Colleen Russell-Rawlins.

The award recipients inspired me to also be impactful within my community, to continue my work toward becoming a leader, and inspiring other youth of colour to strive towards positions of leadership. As a member of the Toronto District School Board’s Student Equity Collective, I support goal of providing all students with the same opportunities, regardless of postal code or identity. 

Kolade A (Gr. 12, Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement’s)

It was such a great honor to felicitate Ms. Colleen Russell-Rawlins, Toronto District School Board Director of Education, recipient of the 2022 Impact Award.  Ms. Russell-Rawlins’ immense commitment to affirm students’ identities in the classroom and create alliances for change encourages me.

It was a wonderful experience for me to be in the same room with distinguished trailblazers (including Dr. Mary Anne Chambers, Hon. Dr. Alvin Curling and Ms. Zanana Akande); award recipients  Louis Saldenah, Agapi Gessesse, Kirk Diamond and presenter Dr. Rhonda McEwen, the President and Vice-Chancellor, Victoria University at the University of Toronto!   

As a young Black student I am learning to navigate the world around me. I have been motivated by the accomplishments and impact of each of the Impact Awards recipients journey.  I am encouraged to step out of my comfort zone, to speak up against injustices, propose opportunities for positive and impactful changes and move towards the implementation of progressive changes.   

Angelika B (Gr. 10, Student Equity Collective/ Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement’s)

It was an incredible experience to witness so many successful leaders in their respective fields being recognized by a community that truly cares about them. During the event, I was among trailblazers Joel ‘Connector’ Davis, Kandy Samsundar and Sherrie Mohammed; individuals who have achieved so much in their careers and chosen their areas of passion including Toronto District School Board Director of Education Ms. Colleen Russell-Rawlins.

Ms. Russell-Rawlins’ speech truly inspired me as a young Black woman and a student of the Toronto District School Board. Director Russell-Rawlins is an individual I admire and in the future, I aspire to be as impactful in my community as she is in hers.

Opeyemi A (Gr. 9, Student Equity Collective)

Toronto District School Board Director of Education Ms. Colleen Russell-Rawlins makes me hopeful and like a ray of sunshine, shining on doors of opportunities; this is why I could not decline the invitation to celebrate Director Russell-Rawlins at the 2022 Impact Awards ceremony. 

The Impact Awards recognizes the contributions of individuals from Caribbean and African communities and highlights the many similarities that are often not portrayed. From the beautiful cultural wear, to the food; everything felt comfortable, familiar and heartwarming. I enjoyed seeing so many amazing Black icons including Tony Sharpe, Marcus Davenport and Dr. Akwatu Khanti (The Blakc Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity) receive their flowers.

This event definitely showed me that no matter what I decide to venture into and the challenges that I may face, being honored by my community is and will be rewarding. I was inspired by the award recipients and aspire to one day be the conductor of hope in the lives of young Black students.