Two Black youth receive scholarships from Tropicana Community Services


By Lincoln DePradine

Deandra Christopher, Jaleel Alfred and Sharon Shelton

The cost of financing their tertiary education has been made easier for two Black youth, Jaleel Alfred and Deandra Christopher, who have received scholarships from Tropicana Community Services (TCS).

The Robert K. Brown Scholarship to Alfred and the Dr Gervan Fearon Scholarship to Christopher were presented on Wednesday at the annual general meeting (AGM) of TCS at its head office, 1385 Huntingwood Drive, Scarborough.

TCS Executive Director Sharon Shelton, in making the presentation to Alfred, noted that “it’s very, very difficult to find black youth working in social services.”

Alfred, a music engineer who also uses cultural arts to help others, enrolled in the child and youth care program at Centennial College “in order to obtain an education that would better prepare him to be in a position to impact youth, families and communities’’, Shelton said.

He was selected, under Centennial’s Global Citizenship, Education and Inclusion initiative, to visit Costa Rica as part of a learning experience.

Christopher is a clinician and an educator, who specializes in offering therapy, workshops, training and service coordination to families, who have children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to community members who support the ASD population.

She is studying for a graduate diploma in education in digital technology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Her ultimate goal is obtaining a Master’s degree in education and technology, which will be applied in establishing a shared community online space for families of Caribbean and African heritage seeking help and support with conditions such as ASD, Downs Syndrome and dyslexia.

Dr Fearon, after whom Christopher’s scholarship is named, is a former Tropicana president. He now is president of Brock University.

Tropicana, a non-profit community organization, was established in 1980 with the late Jamaica-born Robert Brown as its founding-president.

A summer camp, which began earlier this week, is among what TCS describes as its “culturally appropriate programs’’ that also include counselling, child care, educational and employment services, and youth development.

Shelton, in a report to the AGM, said Tropicana served “6,308 unique individuals’’ in the past year.

“Tropicana implemented operational measures to ensure that we had a better financial year than the previous one,’’ she said. “This took the form of tightening spending, non-replacement of staff on leaves of absence, and introduction of new programs. Staff must be highly commended for working so diligently to ensure that programs – new and old – ran seamlessly during this time of severe austerity measures.’’

Shelton was presented with  a 30-year long-service award. Other staff  members who received  long-service awards were Cathy Providence (25 years); Patrick Halsall and Karen Bivand (10 years); and Shipra Bhowmick and Jackie Pereira, each for five years of service to TCS.

Tropicana has adopted a strategic plan, covering 2018 to 2021, which sets goals for issues such as “innovative programming’’, partnerships, funding and income generation, and “brand growth’’.

“We have recognized there is some need for rebranding,’’ said outgoing Tropicana president Jenny Gumbs.