As a first-year English literature major at York University, Keisha McIntosh-Siung would have to read a lot of novels, sometimes one per week. Paying for all those books wasn’t going to be easy.
Fortunately for Ms. McIntosh-Siung, the Church of the Nativity, Malvern, located in the northeast corner of Toronto, gave her a $300 scholarship to help buy the books. That was in 1996, when Ms. McIntosh-Siung was a teenager at the church. Now she is a senior communications advisor with the City of Mississauga.
“Every little bit did count,” she recalls. “To me, it was another indication that I was moving in the right direction and if I put my mind to it, help would come in some way – and it did with the Nativity church scholarship.”
Ms. McIntosh-Siung was back at the Church of the Nativity on Oct. 29 as it celebrated the 20th anniversary of its scholarship program, which has helped more than 110 local teens pursue post-secondary education, either at university, college or in the trades.
Each year, the church gives out $300 “book awards” or $1,000 scholarships to local students for their post-secondary education. This year, eight scholarships were awarded for a total of $8,000.
Ms. McIntosh-Siung joined a handful of former recipients at the gala, which was held in the church’s parish hall and was attended by about 125 people from the church and surrounding community.
The evening featured keynote addresses by Dr. Sheridan Cyrus, a dentist and one of the benefactors of the program, and Laura Wilson, a lawyer and a board member of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers. It included music by soloist Kimya Cato Hypolite and the steel pan duet of Kwesi Hypolite and Arienne Johnson.
Seven plaques were given to long-time donors, in appreciation for their support over the years. One of the plaques was given to the Anglican Diocese of Toronto Foundation, which has provided funds since 2003.
The Rev. Pam Prideaux, incumbent of the Church of the Nativity, praised the program’s donors. “The bottom line is that the church, out of its own budget, would never have been able to help so many young people, and we find it amazing that so many people have rallied to the cause,” she says. “I see it as a sign of the kingdom that people are willing to invest in young people from a somewhat underprivileged area year after year after year. And when we see those young people come back and start giving back to the church, either through contributing to scholarships or through volunteering their time, then we know we’ve made a real difference in people’s lives, and that’s what the program is all about.”
Ms. McIntosh-Siung echoed those thoughts, saying that the community’s belief in the promise of its young people was even more important than the money it gave. “They really believe in their youth, which is what you need to do,” she says. “That belief has impacted us more than the $100,000 that they’ve given.”