Tropicana scholarships assist the recipients, but they also make a difference in the overall community. And they couldn’t happen without the generous support of their founders. We recently had a chance to talk to two scholarship funders to learn their motivations, goals, and the vital importance of supporting education.
Dr. Winsome E. Smith
Dr. Winsome E. Smith, a Jamaican, credits the full scholarship she received 56 years ago with being able to study and build her career in Canada. “The only way for me to academically realize my goals at that time, was to apply for any available scholarships.” A scholarship to study dentistry at Dalhousie University, enabled her to benefit from the exposure to her fellow international students, as well as providing the opportunity to graduate.
When she graduated in 1970, she was the only Black Female Pediatric dentist in Canada and would be for more than a decade. Approximately 70 percent of her patients over the next five decades were Black, and Smith says she has spent her life encouraging them to strive for excellence through higher learning. She has also spent time volunteering with various organizations, focusing on education, mentoring, and assisting with remedial studies for youth.
Retired in 2019, she is now doing what she vowed to do when her own scholarship request was accepted; giving back to create opportunities for new students.
This year marks the launch of her scholarship to support Black, African, and Caribbean students pursuing a post-graduate degree in Dentistry, Medicine, or Bioscience at any Canadian university. She hopes that it will help to correct an underrepresentation she has seen grow across the health sciences sector over the past 30 years. This will result in more Black doctors, dentists, and bioscience professionals.
Early in her career, Smith points to an eye-opening event, which emphasized the dramatic need, for better Black representation in bioscience and related fields: “In 1975, I had a patient, who in the middle of the summer, wore long sleeve shirts. I noticed that his left hand looked unusual for a Black child.” I learned that he wore a prosthesis, but the prosthesis did not correspond to his general completion.”
“That was when I became determined to encourage students to go into the Sciences so that Black students can be a productive part of society, and that the children of our community will get the best treatments that are available.”
The Dr. Winsome E. Smith Health Sciences Scholarship is now open for applications.
Dr. Gervan Fearon
Dr. Gervan Fearon has a long career in education, and a firm belief in its power to improve lives, communities, and society.
Last year he became president of George Brown College, and was previously president and vice-chancellor at Brock University, and Brandon University before that. He started his scholarship with Tropicana to offer graduate students both financial support and encouragement.
“I’ve always been committed to education and educational opportunities, and I’ve always recognized that for a lot of individuals one of the biggest hurdles is the financial capacity for them to be able to pursue post-secondary education,” he said.
“Along with that, it’s also an encouragement. Being able to get the scholarship from Tropicana becomes something they can put on their CV. It provides inspiration and the recognition that others believe in them.”
Fearon says he originally started contributing to Tropicana to set up an emergency fund for those facing unexpected financial shortfalls. He started it to anonymously aid someone he’d sent to Tropicana for help. Over time, the emergency fund was converted into a scholarship.
In addition to his scholarship through Tropicana, Fearon maintains scholarships at Ryerson, Brock, Western, and JCA. With his brother, he also sponsors two schools in Jamaica. He further gives to a number of causes. He attributes his sense of philanthropy to his family upbringing, and a personal desire to better lives and to encourage others to do the same.
“It’s to recognize and support individuals who are hoping to pursue post-secondary education and to be a part of cheerleading their activity—making that a priority. And secondly, it’s to inspire others to donate, even if it’s a small amount.”
He notes that if everyone gave what they could, “We would be able to change an entire generation.”
The Dr. Gervan Fearon Graduate Studies Scholarshipis now open for applications.
The Williams Family
When Janine Williams passed away from cancer at 24, her father Ashworth Williams, past president of Tropicana, established a scholarship to honour her memory.
The scholarship is currently managed by Janine’s sister-in-law, Marianne Williams, who knew her from a young age. “Janine was super active: ballet en pointe, the basketball team, dance squad, talent show — all of those kinds of things throughout high school.”
In the final years of high school, as she started to show symptoms, Janine pressed on in her scholastic career. She attended U of T Scarborough, where she majored in psychology and health sciences. Her positive attitude, high academic standing and constant smile while fighting her illness were inspiring to Janine’s family and friends.
Education was paramount to the Williams family, so a scholarship in Janine’s name made perfect sense. “Our family’s view, as immigrants to Canada, is that you want the best for your kids and that’s a full education,” Marianne says.
The scholarship is open to any GTA resident entering post-secondary education with a high academic standing in a social science or health-related major in need of financial aid.
It’s a way, the family suggests, to continue inspiring others as Janine did in life, with the same openness and diversity with which she was choosing her friends.
The Williams family hopes in addition to helping in their education that the scholarship can inspire recipients to become philanthropic themselves. “Every now and then we hear back from the recipients and get a small update on what’s happening in their lives, which is beautiful. It’s great to see the impact on the community.”
The Janine Williams Memorial Scholarshipis now open for applications.