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UTSC’s ‘Urban Heroes’ honoured for their service to Scarborough

Four UTSC students and one recent received Urban Hero Awards for volunteerism. The annual awards are given to Scarborough residents in recognition of grassroots efforts and contributions to making their communities a better place to live. (Photos by Ken Jones)

Four UTSC students and a recent graduate recently received Urban Hero Awards for volunteerism and dedication to making community around them a better place to live.

The annual awards, which are supported by a number of local sponsors including the Scarborough Mirror, are given to Scarborough residents in recognition of grassroots efforts and contributions that “have made a significant impact to a cause, a person or a group in the local community.”

Sisters Hana, Hasna and Sarah Syed – all current UTSC students – received an award in the community category along with their brother Bilal. The siblings, who have been volunteering since childhood, started a non-profit group at UTSC called Global Youth Impact that encourages youths to be community leaders.

“We wanted to find a way to empower young people who are passionate about global issues and give them a voice in trying make a positive change in the world,” said Hana, a second year neuroscience student.

The siblings also use music to raise awareness to issues important to them. They wrote a song that is currently being used in a United Nations campaign against child labour and they also wrote a song for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games that was featured on radio and television.

Gabriela Estrada, a recent graduate and current UTSC athletics staff member, received an award in the Sports category. Estrada started a local program called keepmovingTO aimed at providing girls ages 13 to 15 in East Scarborough a safe place to enjoy an active lifestyle.

“Sports and recreation can be a positive force in the lives of young women by creating leadership opportunities, developing confidence, creating new friendships or being a stress-reliever and meditative space for them,” she said.

The program, which came out of Estrada’s participation in Motivate Canada’s Physical Literacy for Females project, provides an affordable and accessible way for young women to learn about physical literacy while having fun. The activities covered in the program include Zumba, ultimate Frisbee, yoga, soccer, tennis, relay races and even participating in a recent 6km Mud Hero run.

“It’s grown to become more than a physical literacy program into a safe space where these girls can come together and have fun without worrying about anything that’s going on in their personal lives,” said Estrada.

Kiran Armand Ganness also received an award in the Sports category. Ganness started swimming and playing soccer at the age of three. He would eventually play competitive soccer and take part in a host of other sports growing up including gymnastics, golf, basketball, tennis and skating.

Ganness received the award for his dedication to inspiring fellow students to participate in sports and for his volunteer work during the recent Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in Toronto.

© University of Toronto Scarborough