International students at York claim three of six City of Toronto awards

Wangui Kimari

International students attending York University swept three of the six categories at the City of Toronto’s International Student Awards at a recent presentation. The awards recognize significant contributions made by international students to the city’s economic and socio-cultural development.

Toronto collaborates with the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities, 16 partner academic institutions, and other partners. Students are presented with a certificate, a gift from the dity, and a cheque for $500.

The event was the highlight of the city’s International Student Festival on Saturday, Oct. 6 at Nathan Phillips Square at Toronto City Hall. Despite the chilly fall weather, a good turnout of students from institutions around the city came to celebrate and to enjoy some music and entertainment.

“This is fantastic news. I am very happy for them all,” says Craig Wright, York International’s coordinator of International Student Programs. “They are such amazing people who put their hearts and souls into their studies and also into these wonderful projects that help so many others. I am very proud of them. And to do all that so far from home is really impressive.”

Rodrigo Herrera, 22
Fourth year, BFA screenwriting, Department of Film, Faculty of Fine Arts
Home: Mexico City, Mexico

Category: Arts & Culture

From left, Michael Williams, City of Toronto; Chisanga Puta-Chekwe, deputy minister, Ontario Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration; Rodrigo Herrera; and Pankaj Mehra of ScotiabankFrom left, Michael Williams, City of Toronto; Chisanga Puta-Chekwe, deputy minister, Ontario Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration; Rodrigo Herrera; and Pankaj Mehra of Scotiabank

Rodrigo was recognized for his film work. Three scripts he co-wrote were produced and shown at film festivals in Toronto, Montreal, Cordoba and Zanzibar. Two of those are nominated for York’s upcoming CineSiege awards. “I came here looking for more opportunities in my field of study and that is exactly what I have encountered. Not only all the cultural events happening year-round in the city, but also all the academic and extracurricular opportunities at the University. I have been able to develop projects, build my resume and that has led to professional experiences that take me one step closer to the career I had envisioned.” On receiving the award, Rodrigo said, “It was an absolute surprise. The fact that I was nominated by people I work with makes it very special for me. It is truly an honor that my peers think I am worthy of this award. And it was very gratifying because it embodies how I have benefited from all the great opportunities available to me through the University and my program specifically.”

Wangui Kimari, 27
Second year, PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology
Home: Kenya

Category: Community Service

Wangui Kimari (left) with friend and fellow student Khalid RomainWangui Kimari (left) with friend and fellow student Khalid Romain

Wangui describes herself as being “involved in a lot of different kinds of community service but [most recently] around grassroots education work in Kenya and in Canada… It is important to me because it is my little contribution to the ‘village’.”  She was recognized for her service work, but especially for co-founding an alternative education organization – Elimu Sanifu – which is a Kiswahili word meaning “re-invent learning.”  Working primarily with youths in Nairob’s slums, the organization helps students to value themselves, promotes self-reliance, helps fund them to study in secondary schools and provides workshops so they can learn manual skills. On receiving the award, Wangui said, “I was happy and proud of all of the international students there because it’s not easy being one.”

Alexander Martynov, 19
Third year, BA (Hons), Management Science
Home:  Moscow, Russia

Category: Entrepreneurship

From left, City of Toronto Councillor Michael Thompson; City of Toronto, Minister Glen Murray; Alexander Martynov; and Pankaj Mehra of ScotiabankFrom left, City of Toronto Councillor Michael Thompson; City of Toronto, Minister Glen Murray; Alexander Martynov; and Pankaj Mehra of Scotiabank

“It was a great honour for me to stand in one row with such amazing people from other award categories.” Martynov was recognized for his business acumen and innovation in creating Dreamgift his very first company named for the product he sells. “Gift boxes with experiences inside,” stated Martynov. “[It’s] a unique way to treat somebody – gift packages contain six different experiences to choose from, which is great if you don’t know whether your friend or colleague likes active experiences like parachute jumping or relaxing passive ones like a day at the spa.” In just one year, Martynov’s company has grown significantly online and now he’s looking for a spot in a mall. Like the other recipients, Martynov was surprised but he also “felt very proud of my business partners and our whole team for the hard work which had been done.”

In related news, Welcome Reception 2012 draws huge crowd

Over 250 students jammed Founders Assembly Hall as York International hosted its Welcome Reception 2012 on Sept.26. The event welcomed new and returning international students and exchange students to York and featured food, music, and performances to the theme of Latin American culture focusing on Brazil, Columbia and Mexico. Speakers included President & Vice-Chancellor Shoukri, Vice-President Academic & Provost Patrick Monahan and new Associate Vice-President International Marilyn Lambert-Drache.

Submitted to YFile by Edward Fenner, Office of the Associate Vice-President International