Young scholars score hat trick with Rogers honour

Paul Mayne // Western NewsFirst-year Medical Sciences student Sanjae Mahmud recently received the inaugural Ted Rogers Scholarship, alongside her fraternal triplet siblings Sajin and Samin.

Life happens in threes for Sanjae Mahmud.

She is a fraternal triplet; she now calls London, her third city, home; and she recently received the inaugural Ted Rogers Scholarship. But how does the Rogers honour add up to three for the Mahmud Family?

“I had already received the scholarship and was called in for a photo shoot and to meet with the CEO of Rogers (Joe Natale) and the daughter of Ted Rogers (Martha). They said to bring along my brother and sister. I was like ‘Why?’” said Mahmud, a first-year Medical Sciences student at Western.

“I thought they just wanted to meet them because we’re triplets. But then, they came up to us and wanted to interview us. Right in the middle of doing this, they hand Sajin (brother) and Samin (sister) their awards. I was like, ‘Where’s mine?’ They said, ‘You already got yours.’”

When the scholarship committee found out more about the Mahmud family, Rogers tripled its offer and awarded each triplet their own scholarship – $2,500 per year, for four years at university.

“We didn’t expect this at all. My mom was so thrilled we were all getting one. It is such a big deal for each of us. It’s a great help,” said Mahmud, whose sister is in the Urban Development Program at Western while her brother is at Laurier for Business Administration and Financial Math.

“I was initially going to go into business (school) with my brother, but mom asked what is the point of two people going into the same thing?” Mahmud said. “So, we all decided to go into different fields, which has never happened because we’ve always been together.”

Honouring the former Rogers Communications CEO and president, the Ted Rogers Scholarship Fund was launched in June and recognized 150 youth from across Canada in honour of Canada’s 150 birthday celebration.

Mahmud grew up in Bangladesh before the family moved to Canada when she was 12. Her mother, Shahpar Khan Shampa, a doctor and single mother of three, felt moving would offer her family a better standard of living, better environment and better opportunities for education.

“We were super excited to come here. Even though I miss my friends back home, Canada is just so nice. I like the air a bit better here,” laughed Mahmud, adding she quickly assimilated to life in the Great White North. “We moved to Scarborough. The school there was so nice, and I integrated so fast and made such good friends. Meeting good people was the key point for me.”

It wasn’t long before Mahmud got involved in her community. Seeing the fun her friends were having getting involved at the local YMCA, she too began “doing really cool stuff every week” and met more great people.

Her membership soon became a mentorship, as it was suggested she become part of a new initiative the YMCA was creating called Next Stop Canada, offering soon-to-be immigrants the opportunity to learn about the country before they arrive. Mahmud played a strong role in getting the program going.

“We launched the website for newcomers, allowing them to access whatever they needed to know even before they come to Canada. It let them see how it is and that it would not be a big culture shock for them,” Mahmud said. “When I first came here, I didn’t know there were subways. I had to walk everywhere when I could have taken the subway. I was so cheesed.”

Mahmud was also a mentor for the YMCA’s Newcomer Youth Leadership Development program, designed to help newcomer youth have a positive settlement experience and become engaged members of the community.

“It’s not really work, because it’s so much fun helping others make their lives a bit easier,” she said.

She is looking forward to possibly mentoring again with the program next summer once school is over. But now, schooling is top of the list. Mahmud is working towards becoming a dermatologist.

“It’s been pretty overwhelming so far, a big jump from high school, that’s for sure,” she said. “It’s a lot of work but I’m glad I’m here.”