Midhaa Ahmed receives $70,000 TD Scholarship for Community Leadership
Change is never comfortable but at St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School, becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable has become the new norm.
The catalyst behind the cultural shift is Midhaa Ahmed, who co-founded UKnighted Against Racism, the school’s first anti-racism committee established in September 2020 in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the growing Black Lives Matter movement. The committee’s mandate is to break down systemic barriers and create lasting change.
Ahmed’s leadership was recognized this month with a $70,000 TD Community Leadership Award. The post-secondary scholarship, awarded to only 20 students Canada-wide each year, is presented to students who are helping to support change, nurture progress and contribute to making the world a better place.
A student leader at St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School, Ahmed hasn’t just participated, she has left an imprint on everything she has touched. As Media Head for the school’s Halloween for Hunger and Christmas Miracle campaigns, she made savvy use of social media to increase community awareness of, and raise money and support for local charities. As a Prefect, she assisted with transition activities for new and incoming grade 9 students. She also served as a peer tutor and sat on the Athletic Council.
While these achievements are significant in of themselves, her greatest impact has been as fearless co-founder of UKnighted Against Racism (UAR). For Ahmed, who watched the fall-out following the death of George Floyd, creating a platform for change was not only timely but personal.
Ahmed, together with fellow student Thélia Badoana and two teachers, “formed the committee to bring attention to and educate our school community about social injustices happening globally, locally, and within our own school.”
Today the committee has 65 members of different backgrounds, ethnicities and colours.
“A primary focus of this group is to also empower the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of colour within our school,” says Ahmed. “We want these racialized groups to feel comfortable sharing their stories and experiences. We also encourage students of colour to let their voices and ideas be heard, and to share ways they believe our school community could become a more inclusive and educated environment.”
That the committee has been as successful as it has is directly attributed to Ahmed’s passion, work ethic and drive for change, credits Teacher Stefanie West.
“Midhaa’s leading role in UKnighted came with its own challenges: how do we start a committee truly driven to change the world and not be simply performative?”
“Midhaa quickly made the committee’s intentions known and left everyone speechless: change is happening.”
That change is reflected in weekly meetings, open discussions on racism and related topics, guest speakers, a very visible social media presence, a host of school and community initiatives, as well as elementary school and community outreach. In each, Ahmed has taken a lead role. She is also a student representative on the Board’s Anti-Racism Education Committee, where she is able to bring student issues to the forefront.
“She continues to ask the big questions, encourages us to be deep thinkers and shows us change is possible,” says West. “This committee has a purpose and she is making sure a difference is made."
“The impact of this committee is a large one,” Ahmed concedes. “It not only shows that students will no longer be silent about the issues they face, but also that change needs to happen.”
“My hope is that this group will continue for generations after I leave it, and the topics and initiatives we hold within the school will become normalized, and everyone would like to be involved in.”
Ahmed was recognized at her school on June 15. In words of thanks, Ahmed expressed her appreciation to the UKnighted Against Racism teacher-advisors and her classroom teachers “who have always helped me pursue my dreams” and also those who wrote reference letters in support of her TD scholarship application. She also added her deep thanks to TD for “seeing potential in me and my future.”
“I’m forever grateful and I know that, given this opportunity, I’ll be able to make my dreams come true in the real world once I go to university.” The Scholarship pays up to $70K for tuition and living expenses for a maximum of four years.
Ahmed, who will be attending McMaster University this September for Political Science, hopes to become a lawyer, specializing in immigration and education.
West has no doubt that she will continue to change the world.