York student offers inspiration at Black History Month event

One guest described it as a “home run speech’’ after York University student Tamara Gordon delivered her presentation on Beating the Odds at a Black History Month event held at Tropicana Community Services on Saturday, Feb. 24. Beating the Odds, the theme of the annual event which has run since 1984, was organized by Tropicana, a United Way member agency.

Right: Tamara Gordon

Gordon was welcomed to the event by Atkinson Professor Gervan Fearon. Fearon, a longtime community volunteer, has been on the board of directors of Tropicana for more than four years. Tropicana provides services to over 10,000 clients each year and is a United Way funded agency with partnershipswith the provincial and federal governments, City of Toronto and corporate donors. Fearon was recently named president of the organization, which provides a wide range of social services to youth, the Caribbean and Black community and new Canadians. He was pleased to welcome Gordon, whom he considers an outstanding role model, particularly for youth and those with disabilities.

A high school skiing accident five years ago left Gordon paralyzed from her waist down. She also lost the use of her dominant left hand and the onset of diabetes seriously affected her sight. Despite the tragedy, Gordon completed her high school education and enrolled at Atkinson. She is entering her fourth year as a student in the Administrative Studies program, and is deeply involved at York. She is a member of the Team of Enthusiastic Atkinson Ambassador (TEAA) program, has received 37 scholarships, awards, certificates and distinctions, is an “A’’ student and a regular volunteer both at Atkinson and in her own community. Gordon’s volunteerism at Tropicana helped her win a Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award for Students in 2003.

In addition to being a York Scholar, and when she’s not working full-time as a customer relations coordinator at TD Canada Trust, Gordon also acts as a motivational speaker. She told a group of close to 200 youth and parents at the Tropicana event that beating the odds involved exercising determination, seeking a “good education’’ and working hard.

“Remember you can beat the odds because in life it is not so much what happens to you but what happens in you,’’ Gordon said. “That is what determines success or failure. No matter what, may you thrive, grow, and develop to be the best you can be.’’

In a message directed specifically at the youth, Gordon said: “An educated mind is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and the world.’’ Gordon, who has beaten the odds herself, plans to become a family lawyer.

For more information, contact Atkinson’s Fearon at gfearon@yorku.ca.