Three new scholarships for Black students at Western have been named in honour of members of the Black community who, through their association with the university and their contributions to the community, have left a legacy of commitment to education and social justice.
The scholarships include the James Jenkins President’s Entrance Scholarship for Black Students, the Carmeta Thelma Hodges Western Continuing Admission Scholarship of Excellence for Black Students and the Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Jacobs Western Continuing Admission Scholarship of Distinction for Black Students.
This year, 45 Black scholarships have been created for students at Western. The recipients were celebrated at a campus gathering on Feb. 7, hosted by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, part of a series of Black History Month events at the university throughout February and March.
“I am proud to receive the inaugural scholarship. This is something I did not know I could do,” said Isata Mansaray, second-year student in the health sciences program and one of the recipients of the James Jenkins President’s Entrance Scholarship for Black Students.
Mansaray emigrated with her family from Sierra Leone in 2006 and grew up in Kitchener, Ont. Her mother works at a homeless shelter.
“There are lots of Liberian/Sierra Leonese families in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Finances are a constraint, and the prospect of higher education is remote for them,” said Mansaray. A recipient of the Kitchener-Waterloo Legacy Scholarship, she has been talking to youths of the region about post-secondary education. She is a member of the Western wrestling and women’s rugby teams.
“I wanted to be a doctor in high school. Now I am aware of so many career options,” said Mansaray, who is also considering a career in research. Her observations about lived experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic are also shaping her outlook for the future.
“As a woman and a minority, you can’t ignore inequities in healthcare and other socioeconomic sectors. I would like to do something about it.” – Isata Mansaray, recipient, James Jenkins President’s Entrance Scholarship for Black Students
James Jenkins President’s Entrance Scholarship for Black Students
James Jenkins (1884-1931) was the founder-publisher of The Dawn of Tomorrow in 1923. The newspaper highlighted the accomplishments of Black Canadians and helped forge their identity. In 1927, he co-founded the Canadian League for the Advancement of Coloured People. The Jenkins family is one of the most notable Black families in London, Ont. His son, Fred, served two terms as trustee for the London Public Board of Education.
The scholarship named after Jenkins is to be given each year to five first-year students with outstanding academic performance, passion for learning and community service. Each awardee receives $20,000 for the first year and $10,000 in successive undergraduate years for a total value of $50,000 per student.
“Almost every member of my family in my father’s generation was involved with the newspaper. Watching my father engaged in the process of publishing it is among my childhood memories,” said Michelle Angela Jenkins, daughter of David Ross Jenkins and granddaughter of James.
“I feel so lucky to have this heritage from my grandfather, the understanding that if you educate yourself, the world is yours. In my own life, through my art, I make sure I am giving back to the community,” said Michelle, a teacher and artist.
Carmeta Thelma Hodges Western Continuing Admission Scholarship of Excellence for Black Students
Carmeta Thelma Hodges (1936-2018) arrived in Canada from Barbados as a 20-year-old to study nursing. She received a BSc in nursing from Western in 1965 and worked as a nurse in the Northwest Territories as well as a public health nurse in London. In 1975, she joined St. Lawrence College as a professor of nursing and went on to become a founding member of the Ontario Nurses’ Association.
The scholarship is given to 10 students every year. They receive $6,000 a year for four years, plus $2,000 for an optional study-abroad experience.
“Early on in her career, my mother knew she would have to further her education, and eventually became an educator herself,” said Patrick Hodges, son of Carmeta and a federal government worker now based in Ottawa, Ont.
“Her commitment to learning was lifelong. She actually received her master’s degree after she retired, and her thesis was on the lives of nurses after retirement.” – Patrick Hodges, son of Carmeta Thelma Hodges
“So she continued to learn, teach and promote the cause of nurses all her life. The institution of this scholarship is a reminder of that commitment,” said Patrick.
Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Jacobs Western Continuing Admission Scholarship of Distinction for Black Students
Under the Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Jacobs Western Continuing Admission Scholarship of Distinction for Black Students, 10 recipients will be awarded $2,500 each year for up to four years, as well as $2,000 for an optional study-abroad experience.
A descendant of one of 50 Black families who settled in Kingsville, Ont. in the 1800s, Jacobs served in the Royal Canadian Medical Corps during the Second World War, after which he graduated in arts from Western and became the first African Canadian male to be a front-line social worker in the Toronto Children’s Aid Society. In 1954, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, became a pilot and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, in the process also becoming Canada’s first Black wing commander.
At the campus event, Western president Alan Shepard spoke of the university’s continuing commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“Canada has a history of racial division and inequality in schools, with the last segregation in Ontario ending in 1965. The effects of anti-Black racism can still be observed in institutional exclusion and discrimination. At Western, progress means acknowledging and reflecting on our history and taking steps to create a more welcoming and inclusive experience for our students, faculty and staff,” said Shepard.
Opiyo Oloya, associate vice-president of equity, diversity and inclusion, talked about the value of the scholarships being much more than just financial.
“Through these scholarships, Western has created a solid bridge for Black youth to enter post-secondary education and be prepared to take their rightful places building this country. But on a much deeper level, these scholarships offer an opportunity to bring Western closer to the Black community. They are the harbingers of closer, more fruitful, and positive relationships,” said Oloya.
The Honourable Jean Augustine was the event’s keynote speaker. In 1993, she became the first Black woman elected to Parliament and served as cabinet minister and deputy speaker, successfully championing the Black History Month and Famous Five Motions. Augustine also spoke to the broader campus community about her experiences and insights at a fireside chat organized by Western’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion on Feb. 8.
In May 2022, Western announced the establishment of more than 75 new entrance and continuing scholarships to support Black and Indigenous students starting in Sept. 2022, as well as a commitment to increase the number of bursaries that can be accessed by Indigenous and Black students in financial need.