Past top scholars find stellar careers

Ten years ago, Raktim (BSc ’06) and Nilava Ghatak (BSc ’06) took top honours in the Toronto public school board, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 23.

The twin brothers, then 19, earned averages of 99.3 and 99.2 respectively in their final year at Kipling Collegiate Institute. They went to York University on scholarships, studying mathematics, and then they were off to the University of Toronto’s dental school.

They both completed their dental residency at Temple University in Philadelphia. Now they are back in Toronto, living at home together – but working at different dental offices.

“We did schooling for eight years together, we got tired of each other,” jokes Nilava.

The Star tracked down some past high achievers to see what they have done with their lives and find out if they felt any pressure to perform given their stellar high-school marks.

Nilava Ghatak said he and his brother continued earning good grades at York University.

“To be quite honest, we had a very good time at York – our (grade-point average) was 3.98 (out of 4),” he said.

He said while their grades went down slightly in dental school, they felt they were well prepared for university. “We were apprehensive the first year, maybe people were thinking our high school was easier than other high schools” and that’s how they earned good grades, he said.

  • On Aug. 23 the Toronto Star  wrote about a number of Ontario scholars, including Dimple Dalal of Brampton’s Turner Fenton Secondary School, who finished with an average of 100 and plans to attend the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Favourite subject: World history. “I like studying dictators and world wars. I would do my history homework first and math later.”

Least favourite: “I struggled the most in chemistry…I had to work twice as hard for the 100.”

Homework: Three to four hours a night, 10 on weekend.

Extracurricular: Volunteering with child care services, environmental club/cleanup, eco mentors, IB conference.

Free time: “Friday was my no homework night. I used to volunteer, it was my night to watch movies, go out. I needed that time for myself to maintain my sanity.”

Academic drive: 10-year-old brother. “He was the patrolman, he would tell my parents ‘She’s on YouTube,’ he wouldn’t even knock, he’d sneak in sometimes and tell my mom ‘She’s not studying.’“

The Bieb’s right-hand man

Dan Kanter (BFA Spec. Hons. ’07) wrote in his yearbook at Sir Robert Borden High School that he’d play “Wembley Stadium one day….” He recently did, in front of 90,000 fans, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Aug. 21.

Kanter is Justin Bieber’s guitarist and co-musical director, and that puts him at the centre of the teenage-heartthrob whirlwind. “His fans are definitely wild,” Kanter said this week, over the phone from Indianapolis, where he was enjoying a day off from Bieber’s world tour, which comes to Ottawa on Aug. 24.

Just how does one get from there to where Kanter is now – at the right hand of one of the hottest young performers in the world?

Go back about a year, and Kanter is a student at York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, working on his thesis for a master’s degree in musicology. He has a reputation in the music business, having toured with young Toronto popsters Fefe Dobson and Shiloh. Bieber – already a star, with the most influential hairstyle since Jennifer Aniston redid her do on “Friends” – is to appear on MuchMusic and needs a second acoustic guitarist. Kanter is recommended. Soon enough, he’s on tour as Bieber’s guitarist and co-musical director.

“Basically,” Kanter says, “we were given the CD and had to make the arrangements and produce them for the live show – decide, sort of, what to embellish, what to stay true to, if we were going to have any reprises, things like that…. I’m a big fan of a show being a spectacle, more than just music.”

Italian Walk of Fame

Leave it to Italians to walk the talk, wrote the Toronto Sun Aug. 22 in a story about the Italian Walk of Fame (IWOF), which took place in the heart of Little Italy on Grace Street.

It was the talk of the town. And it was the vision of two Canadians of Italian origin who brought what was a mere pipe dream to solid fruition with an event that was so successful – the second annual IWOF is now being planned for early September.

“Last year’s response was so amazing that it was a given we’d have a second one,” Jimi Bertucci said in a recent interview. Bertucci co-founded the event with Marisa Beaco-Lang (BA ’83), both good friends who grew up in the same neighbourhood and who now both work in the entertainment industry dividing their time between Los Angeles and Toronto. “Italians worldwide have distinguished themselves with their accomplishments in all fields and industries, and continue to actively contribute their talents and gifts…. This Italian Walk of Fame is our way to celebrate their accomplishments.”

Lang was born in the Trieste region of northern Italy and she, too, came as a child with her family. A graduate of York University with a major in psychology and an established academic career in psychiatric research, Lang’s real passion was always in the entertainment field. Over the years she would go on to manage artists…and continue in the entertainment field in a variety of avenues.

Residential fruit harvesting program has roots in the community

Not Far From The Tree has branched out once again with fruit in Trinity-Spadina and Riverdale being picked and plucked by eager volunteers, wrote the Beach-Riverdale Mirror Aug. 20.

The residential fruit harvesting program that began in Toronto’s St. Paul/St. Clair West neighbourhood in 2008 has expanded again after a successful year last year that saw 8,135 pounds of fresh fruit harvested from trees in three Toronto neighbourhoods. This summer Wards 29, 30, 19 and 20 joined East York, Parkdale and the original fruit-picking area.

Marc Michalak (MES ’09) is the hub co-ordinator for Trinity-Spadina. He’s definitely had his eyes opened to the abundance of bounty to be found in backyards. “I was completely floored in fact by the number of fruit trees that exist in the city,” he said. “I had no idea.”

Michalak, himself, had never been on a pick before becoming the hub coordinator. He saw NFFTT seed and grow as he went to York University with the program’s founder, Laura Reinsborough (BES Spec. Hons. ’05, MES ’08).

Protecting Ontario’s forests

For the past century, the Aviation &Forest Fire Management branch of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has kept watch over the province’s forests, trying to keep them safe, wrote The Sault Star Aug. 21.

About two years ago, fire staff in Dryden tested night-vision technology and how these goggles could help detect forest fires. Reaction was positive, especially with the bright flickering characteristics of fire.

Two of the MNR’s helicopters have been equipped to accommodate the night flying system. Since then, York University and the National Research Council, as part of an Ontario Centres of Excellence project, tested out the night-vision goggles on a June 16, 2009 flight.

The test project is entering into its third and final year, said Don Filliter, chief helicopter pilot.

The group will continue to assess the effectiveness of the night-vision goggles on early detection of lightning fires throughout the season. It’s expected the group will publish a paper on the test after this year’s fire season.

Pistol Pete’s patrol

“My mission,” says Pete Reintjes, a sunburned, sweat-stained captain, “is to hold Nakhonay.” It’s a dangerous, complicated task, and one suddenly crucial to Canada’s shrinking combat assignment in Afghanistan as it comes nearer to an end, wrote the National Post Aug. 21.

Capt. Reintjes has slept 15 hours in the past 10 days, reckons his sergeant, Jesse Kidney, one of just eight other soldiers in a small Canadian operational mentor liaison team (OMLT). The crew is assigned to a platoon of Afghan National Army soldiers.

The group is remarkably diverse. All but two of its members are reservists with different lives back in Canada. There’s Corporal Victor Choi, 21, a political science student at York University. Capt. Reintjes, 43, is an Ontario Provincial Police officer in London, Ont. His men call him “Pistol Pete”.

Con men prey on students

Students from China are being fleeced by crooks who take their money and then set them up to be deported from Canada, Toronto Police and immigration officials say, wrote the Toronto Sun Aug. 22.

Failed refugee claimant Feng Pan, 24, ended up in jail after dishing out $18,000 to two men linked to a Chinese-language immigration help Web site for York University students, her counsel said.

The men say they have “government connections”, Pan said.

Pan said after the men failed to get more money from her over a two-year period, they provided her with the e-mail of an officer of the Canadian Border Services Agency who, rather than helping her, arrested her at an interview on an outstanding warrant.

On air

  • Martin Shadwick, a military analyst in the York Centre for International & Security Studies, spoke about Canada’s foreign policy on the Arctic, on CBC Radio Aug. 20.
  • York grads Ausma Khan (PhD ’04), editor of Muslim Girl magazine, and Gilary Massa (BA ’08), former vice-president equity for the York Federation of Students, spoke about young Muslim women and the wearing of veils, on TVO’s “The Agenda” Aug. 20.