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UTSC students, grads take home half of the City of Toronto awards for excellence

Michael Piok is one of seven UTSC students and graduates to win City of Toronto International Student Excellence awards. (Photo by Ken Jones)

When Michael Piok writes a poem he takes readers on an incredible journey more than 11,000 km back to the place where his educational odyssey began.

It was at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya where the aspiring writer first went to school, soaking up the works of Shakespeare and his favourite poets and African writers. 

“I love to explore Kenyan village life and culture in my writings,” says Piok. “Moving to Canada has given me a different perspective, but the countryside is where I am from and those themes inspire my work.”  

Piok was born in southern Sudan but at the age of five fled with his family to the Kakuma camp in north-western Kenya where he lived with more than 100,000 refugees from various war-torn countries in Africa. The camp is well known for its association with the Lost Boys of Sudan, the more than 20,000 children who were displaced and in many cases orphaned during the civil war.

The fourth-year chemistry student, who came to UTSC in 2011 on a World University Services of Canada (WUSC) scholarship, has a knack for storytelling. So much so that he received an award from the City of Toronto for a collection of poetry he wrote based on where he grew up in Kenya.

Piok is one of seven UTSC students and graduates to win City of Toronto International Student Excellence awards. The award is designed to recognize significant contributions that international students make to Toronto's economic and socio-cultural development. Categories include entrepreneurship, community service, academic excellence, sports, arts and culture and professional achievement.

"These seven students are perfect examples of the many international students at UTSC who work to create thriving communities," says UTSC Dean Rick Halpern. "I’m so delighted to be part of a campus that inspires its international students to make such a difference."

Originally from Colombia, International Development Studies student Alejandro Posada received an award for community service. He is currently on a year-long internship with the Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems, assisting in efforts to conserve agro-biodiversity in southern India.  

Amrita Annamunthodo, a double major in biochemistry and neuroscience, received an award for academic excellence. She came to Canada in 2012 after receiving an open scholarship from the government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Alum Tim Cheng received an entrepreneurship award for his research that inspired the development of a web-based assessment application called mTuner. 

Anh Cao, a fourth-year cell and molecular biology student, came to Canada in 2011 as a recipient of the Vietnamese Government Fellowship scholarship. He received an award for academic excellence.

Jackson Mei and Hashwin Ganesh both received professional development awards. After graduating from the BBA program, Mei joined Bell Canada as a finance manager and has won numerous awards in recognition of outstanding performance. Ganesh, a neuroscience grad, is an aspiring entrepreneur who currently works in research and development for Canada’s only revenue generating stem cell company.

The winners received a certificate and gift at an award ceremony at the International Students Festival on Sept. 27 at Toronto's Metro Hall.

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