RBC Future Launch Scholarship for Black Youth helps recipients “cross the chasm"

This article originally appeared on News & Stories on February 14, 2023.

Black Canadians find a path forward when faced with obstacles and adversity.

That’s what it means to be resilient. And it’s on full display with this year’s recipients of the RBC Future Launch Scholarship for Black Youth.

Meet Arshi Chadha. Her textured hair and accent drew so much unwanted attention in grade school that she was akin to “a sheep at the petting-zoo.” Now she wants to “create a universe where Black folks are given agency” after completing film studies at Simon Fraser University’s School of Contemporary Arts.

Mathem Maluak lived his teen years in a refugee camp, having been forced to leave his family and war-torn country behind. After earning his engineer degree at McGill, he will apply “human centered design and system thinking to help strengthen communities in developing countries and First Nations communities.”

Lidia Sumamo has faced many hardships along her journey-from health issues to significant trauma. That never stopped her from fighting to brighten her sphere of influence. The Politics & Governance student plans to “step into public policy” to address systemic gaps that exist for Black Canadians, such as human rights, affordable and accessible mental health resources, housing and transportation.

Arshi (left), Mathem (centre) and Lidia (right) are three of the 20 recipients of RBC Future Launch Scholarship for Black Youth.

Photo: Arshi (left), Mathem (centre) and Lidia (right) are three of the 20 recipients of RBC Future Launch Scholarship for Black Youth.

These profiles of perseverance are no coincidence. Research tells us the capacity to adapt to adversity is a trait found more broadly in Black individuals than any other group in Canada.

Forty-four percent of Black respondents believe they “were always able to bounce back quickly after hard times, compared to 33 percent among the rest of the population.” And a majority of Blacks (65 percent) say they “always” learned something from a negative experience. Less than half of all other respondents felt the same way.

But economic and social factors that support individuals in attaining a postsecondary education are also stacked up against Black Canadians. And as a result, they are less likely to earn a diploma or degree than any other group.

“When pathways to higher education diverge, so do pathways to prosperity,” says Mark Beckles, Vice President, Social Impact and Innovation at RBC. “Even with tremendous amounts of courage and perseverance, completing postsecondary studies can be a bridge too far for many Black youth. Our scholarship is designed to help people like Arshi, Mathem and Lidia cross the chasm.”

The RBC Future Launch Scholarship for Black Youth awards 20 scholarships annually valued up to $10,000 each per year (up to 4 years) to Black students across Canada. Importantly, the program also provides successful candidates with access to a range of services including mentorship, academic and career planning, tutoring, internship opportunities and networking.

Through an advisory committee of Black academics and youth-serving leaders, the scholarship was created by the community, for the community.

The scholarship will be “transformational,” says Arshi, as it will allow her to “catch up and focus fully on the things that many young people take for granted– the world of ideas and creativity that I so value.”

Mathem is especially excited about expanding his network to develop his professional career, and find opportunities where he can practice specifics skill sets that “embrace sustainable development projects in a way that has minimal impact on the environment and does not put public health and safety into jeopardy.”

Over the longer term, Mark says, the scholarship program will turn headwinds into tailwinds for Black youth. For instance, the level of education attained by a parent influences their childrens’ prospects for a post-secondary education.

Lidia explains: “As the first in my family to ever attend university, boldly call out injustices, and seek mental health, I’m already breaking generational cycles- and I don’t intend to stop.”

The scholarship program is part of a larger initiative to create meaningful and transformative pathways for 25,000 BIPOC youth by 2025.

“Like all youth, Black Canadians want to actively engage in and contribute to their communities. Their desire is palpable,” says Mark. “RBC wants to help unlock their passion and support their growth journey so they can thrive and prosper in a more equitable world.”

RBC Future Launch Scholarship for Black Youth

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