York alumna honoured with Women’s Courage Award

York graduate Christina Sgro was presented with the Women’s Courage Award for Mentorship last month for her significant impact on society.

The Oct. 25th event, held at the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto and organized by the Endless Possibilities and Hope Development Organization, marked the ninth annual installment of the festivities and drew a crowd of more than 250 people. Some notable attendees included: Toronto Mayor John Tory; Etobicoke North MP Kirsty Duncan; Jean Augustine, former MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore; and Brampton-Springdale MP Harinder Malhi, who presented Sgro with her award.

When asked about her fellow award recipients, Sgro said, “This is heady company I find myself in. I’m very grateful. These are remarkable women who have devoted their lives to making the world a brighter place. I thank God that I’ve had the opportunity to do something that has made any kind of impact, big or small.”

Sgro’s journey as a mentor began with the University’s Student Peer Support Centre. She then went on to become a teaching assistant while pursuing her master of environmental studies/planning degree. After graduating, she joined the Career Centre’s Career Conversations series as a panellist before signing on for the University’s Take a Student to Eat (TASTE) program.

John Tory
John Tory

Her commitment to helping students realize their goals and overcome barriers is nothing new. Last year, she established the Christina L. Sgro Entrance Award for undergraduate students in the Faculties of Environmental Studies and Liberal Arts and Professional Studies who intend to focus on geography or urban studies.

“We are seeing a strange juxtaposition these days. This polite society of ours is unprecedented. We’ve reached new heights of sensitivity in recent years. But there is a viciousness that marks us, now more than ever. It has permeated pop culture. We see it on the Internet with harsh exchanges and heavy judgment. Bullying in schools is getting worse. Today’s uncivilized acts are cleverly masked but they are still uncivilized,” said Sgro. “We need to focus on building each other up, not tearing each other down. It’s a wonderful thing to celebrate each other and to celebrate giving back. These women know the real meaning of courage.”

Among Sgro’s numerous mentees are Heather Yeboah (BES ’14) and FES student Marina Janakovic, who both attended the awards ceremony to express their support. Yeboah and Janakovic met Sgro through the Career Conversations panel and TASTE, respectively.

From left, Marina Janakovic and Heather Yeboah
From left, Marina Janakovic and Heather Yeboah

Yeboah said that Sgro put the pressure associated with being a graduate student in perspective for her by “always being supportive, uplifting and genuine.” She lauded Sgro for her helpfulness, positive influence and sincerity. “Speaking with Christina has changed how I see networking – as a more positive, enjoyable and rewarding experience. She has given me countless industry insights. But what I am most thankful for is her willingness to go out of her way [again and again] to help students like myself.”

Psychology graduate Neha Arora (BA Hons. ’13), another of Sgro’s longtime mentees, recalled her mentor’s ongoing guidance with appreciation. “Christina has always offered the best help and advice. The mentoring I’ve received from her over the years has motivated me to achieve many goals. I appreciate Christina always pushing me to do my best.” What she values most? “Her selflessness,” said Arora. “She’s always going out of her way to help others.”

Christina Sgro's award
The Women’s Courage Award

Having recently been appointed to the United Nation’s Committee on the Environment, Sgro is now weaving her wealth of experience with her continuing dedication to student success by developing a planning technology program at Seneca College to be formatted to complement York’s planning program, one of the foremost of its kind in Canada.

The Endless Possibilities and Hope Development Organization said of Sgro: “From the time she could walk and talk, it was apparent that her greatest achievement was measured in a value she put in making other people’s lives warmer, easier, more tolerable and, just maybe, a little happier.” Sgro’s award recognizes the positivity she exudes, and the help she extends to those who come her way. And as they can personally attest, she is only too happy to cheer her mentees on.