On September 29, the Laval branch of the Bank of Montreal (BMO) hosted an award ceremony to celebrate the three students receiving the inaugural scholarships from the GemStar Scholarship Fund.
The Fund, which is the brainchild of Gemma Raeburn-Baynes, president of Playmas Montreal Cultural Association will present $1500 cheques to Ronnell Thomas of Beurling Academy, Thallya Russo of John F. Kennedy High School, and Kenya Yeboah-Whyne of Westmount High School at their graduation ceremonies in June 2023.
The students also met BMO executives responsible for the sponsorship of the scholarship grant, along with Black entrepreneurs in BMO’s Black Entrepreneurship Program at the recognition ceremony.
Given the exceptional academic work and community involvement that came to light at the selection process, it was impossible to stop at awarding scholarships to three recipients.
So all the students who applied for the GemStar Scholarships were so deserving that all the applicants will be inducted into the GemStar Circle of Excellence on November 12 during the GemStar Youth Leadership Conference.
“All applicants have nevertheless been taken in hand by a select team of executive-level mentors who will see them through to the end of the school year in June and beyond… everyone wins,” says Gemma Raeburn-Baynes.
The GemStar Circle of Excellence is an opportunity to build a network of Black students of excellence, as all the applications Playmas Montreal Cultural Association received were from Black students who maintained excellent grades and were actively involved in community work.
The Circle of Excellence will ensure Playmas Montreal builds a pool of well-rounded students. Bank of Montreal, also a partner in this program will be offering training for summer employment to these students as well.
The Scholarship comes at what is a watershed moment, when education is facing unique challenges due to the pandemic.