The Dr. Rudy Ffrench Trailblazer Award is presented annually by Business Is Jammin’ to Nova Scotian youth of African Descent for contributions to their community, as demonstrated by long-term commitment and leadership as volunteers, students, athletes and/or artists.
Among these outstanding individuals, two youth from across the Province are selected annually as “Trailblazers” and are awarded a $1,000 scholarship towards tuition, books, or other related fees at a recognized post secondary educational institution.
My name is Carmahn McCalla. I am a writer, an artist, an actor, a singer, and a dancer, among many other titles I claim. I write to layout all of my ideas and thoughts. I draw to express the emotions that words cannot. I act, dance and sign to share my passions with the world. It was only within the last few years that anyone outside of my family knew I was any of these things, as I was more introverted and unwilling to take any risks of failure or shame. The hardships y 18 years have put me through have made me louder, confident and more courageous, but they have also softened me to become a kinder person. As of today, I have survived all of my weakest moments, which is my proudest accomplishment. I consider myself a creative and open-minded person, which is why I wish to pursue post-secondary studies in technology. I find myself fascinated with the way our world is moving to the future, and I want to be at the forefront of this change.
I am planning to get a Bachelor of Applied Computer Science from Dalhousie University. One of my main goals is to build an in-depth image reference software, specifically for artists to use. Another goal is mine is to work with small local business owners to create and support their websites at an affordable price. When I receive the skills and resources I need, I want to give back to all of my communities. Throughout my life, so many people are willing to help me with whatever I needed; family, friends, teachers, community leaders and etcetera; so I cannot help but do the same for others who find that their aspirations are blocked by obstacles they cannot move alone.
Receiving this scholarship will further allow me to focus more on my current and future studies, without the burden of finances looming over my head. I believe that an equal balance between education and social life is crucial for sustainability. Instead of overworking myself to make ends meet I would be able to practice self-care; both mental and physical; discover better studying habits, and expand my social circles via networking. I would travel more often and strive to make new connections technologically and culturally.
As of now I take part in The Ujima Cultural Group (a high school club for African Nova Scotian students), Imhotep Legacy Academy (an organization for African Canadian students in S.T.E.M), and Music Liberatory (a women’s music group). These extracurriculars of mine embody three of the most important themes in my life; education, culture, and creativity. I value these intensely because of the three, in my opinion, one cannot exist without the others.
Education is most important to me because in this age, we have the opportunity to learn about almost anything, and ignorance can no longer be considered bliss. My culture; where I come from, how I self identify and where I belong are my favorite parts of myself, because I know that my history is rich and beautiful. Thanks to creativity, we have many things today that would otherwise not exist.
I am committed to working hard to meet my goals and will always make education my top priority.
Keona Mae Simmons
My name is Keona Mae Simmons. I am a grade 12 French Immersion student at Auburn Drive High School in Dartmouth, NS. I am a resident of East Preston. I take great pride in my very rich family history, having my mother who has strong roots in East Preston and my father with strong roots in North Preston.
Growing up in a large tight-knit extended family has given me the understanding of how a good team works and how everyone has to work together to make things run smoothly, sometimes making personal sacrifices to obtain a greater goal.
Growing up with these experiences gave me the knowledge that would, in turn, prepare me for the many volunteer and leadership positions to come.
Over the years, I have taken part in many different volunteer activities. Most of my life I have wanted to be a role model for other young girls in the community. This is why I joined the Girl Guides of Canada in 2016 as a Ranger, so I could be a Junior Leader for the Sparks and Brownies groups.
This than led me to be on the Girl Guides of Canada NS Council Youth Forum in 2017, where I was one of the six girls chosen to work with the Girl Guide Provincial Council to address girl’s issues from an active Girl Guide’s perspective.
In 2018, I was selected to be not only a representative from NS, but also a Black Representative of rural communities on the Girl Guide National Youth Council with 12 other girls chosen from across Canada.
I was also honored to be chosen to help organize and execute a Community Service project with YMCA Community Action Network (YCAN). With this project, we made a community garden to create a connection between the older and younger generations by providing fresh vegetables to give to seniors. Through this, I was able to travel to Toronto to attend the #LeadersToday Global Youth Service Summit. At that Summit, I was on the “harvesting” team, where we centralized ideas from the weekend and turned them into policy recommendations for the Prime Minister.
At school, I was never one to shy away from volunteer activities, being an active member of Auburn’s Student Council during my whole high school experience. Currently, for the 2018-2019 school term, I am the Youth Health Centre Liaison. This is a position in which I was selected to be an advocate for physical and mental health for the students. I have also started a Student Healthy Advocacy Group where students will, under my direction, organize campaigns to educate the student body on all aspects of health. One of my greatest accomplishments in this position so far, was organizing a Health Expo along side school administration, health professionals and community volunteers.
Another accomplishment that I am proud of, is in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school terms, I was selected to represent NS Black Youth on the Minister’s Advisory Council on Student Issues. I was chosen to meet with the Honorable Zach Churchill, Minister of Education, and speak to him about issues facing black youth in the HRCE district and other student issues. Through this experience, I was able to learn and apply that we can’t just talk about problems, we must always be prepared to offer solutions to said problems in order to make changes.
My most recent accomplishment that I am especially proud of is when I asked by the Directory of the Black Cultural Centre to give a speech to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the cultural significance of the Centre and the history of the community. I was honored to be chosen and felt even more honored that Prime Minister Trudeau was enlightened with what I had to say.
Throughout all of my life and volunteer experiences, I have been a strong Mental Health advocate, taking the opportunity to participate in “Mind Your Mind” sessions at Laing House. We not only talked about lack of support of mental health issues in our communities, but we also talk about and came up with possible solutions to these problems.
I will be the second child in my family attending university, as my brother is attending Carleton University in Ottawa. I have been accepted to attend St Thomas University in Fredericton, NS in the 2019-2020 school term. My future goal is to become a Forensic Psychologist.