Oshawa high school “difference maker” earns four-year university Community Leadership scholarship

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Published June 12, 2024 at 9:54 am

Omar Elgazzar, a TD Community Leadership scholarship recipient from Maxwell Heights Secondary in Oshawa

“It’s never too early to make a difference,” said an Oshawa high school student with a passion for the sciences and a desire to help his community after earning a Community Leadership scholarship worth as much as $70,000.

Omar Elgazzar of Maxwell Heights Secondary was one of 20 students across the country to score the four-year free ride to university from TD Bank Group for his efforts in providing free meals and groceries for families battling food insecurity; for establishing a youth group to help kids struggling to be socially active; and for creating a summer robotics camp for middle schoolers interested in learning about technology.

All 20 recipients were recognized for leadership and contributions to support change, nurture progress and help communities thrive. From leading skills-building programs to helping their fellow students develop technology, language, and mathematics capabilities, to fostering community connectedness, and leading physical and mental health initiatives, these students are being recognized for the mark they are helping to make in their classrooms and communities.

Elgazzar established ‘Ramadan Respite,’ an initiative that united people from diverse cultures and backgrounds to come together and battle food insecurity by providing free meals and groceries to hundreds of struggling families across Durham Region.

Post Covid-19, he found there were many kids his age struggling to be socially interactive, which led him to establish the Al-Arqam Youth Group, which hosted sporting events and provided volunteering opportunities “to get kids to interact with their community.”

“To me, these young generations are the backbones of society and they need to be raised strong and socially proactive to benefit their community.”

As a young man passionate about STEM, he also created a summer robotics camp where he taught kids in Grades 6-8 the basics of modern robotics. “The importance of teaching robotics to STEM passionate kids and supporting women in engineering was a leading factor in my decision to create the camp. I wanted to help promote diversity, inclusivity and innovation in STEM fields.”

It was after the STEM camp when his parents and teachers encouraged him to apply for the scholarship. “I am honoured to be among the 20 students to receive a TD Scholarship for Community Leadership for helping to drive positive change in my community.”

Elgazzar wants to study Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo but paying for the experience was a “big concern,” he said. The scholarship “allows me the opportunity and freedom to focus on receiving a well-rounded education without worrying how I or my family would be able to finance my education.”

He hopes to continue Ramadan Respite and other initiatives while at university.

The scholarship also includes summer employment and opportunities for networking and mentoring and Elgazzar plans on taking advantage to set him up for the “far future” when he starts his own business offering “modern technological solutions to real-world problems” to create global change.

“One thing I like to tell people is that it’s never too early to start making a difference. It’s a common misconception that people should wait until they have a stable position and money to start making life changing initiatives. I believe that when there is a will to make a difference, there’s always a way,” he said.

Elgazzar didn’t have money for any of his projects but he got sponsors and applied for government funding and “rallied the community” under a banner of change. “From there, things started rolling and you start to make a lasting impact. So don’t be shy to begin now, even if you begin with something small, it’s just the start.”

Alicia Rose, an associate vice president of Social Impact with TD, said the scholarship program is a way the bank can supporter the “changemakers” of the future like Elgazzar.

“We’re proud to offer this scholarship program to support these outstanding students who are dedicating their time, talents and energy to support change and nurture progress, as they begin the next step of their educational journey.”

Five of the other 19 recipients are from Ontario schools, including:

  • Prisha Bhavsar, Stouffville District Secondary School, Whitchurch-Stouffville
  • Ché Silvera, Upper Canada College, Toronto
  • Albany Benson, Chippewa Secondary School, North Bay
  • Evan Johnson, Stratford District Secondary School, Stratford
  • Clara Misener, Perth and District Collegiate Institute, Perth

Since 1995, 580 Canadian high-school students have received a scholarship from TD for Community Leadership for their post-secondary education, with a total value of $29 million.

Every year 20 scholarships are available to be awarded to students in their last year of high- school (or CEGEP in Quebec). Each award is worth up to $10,000 for tuition and $7,500 for living expenses per year for a maximum of four years.

Alya Rasoul from Anderson Collegiate Vocational Institute in Whitby earned a TD Community Leadership scholarship last year.

Applications for 2025 scholarships will be available online starting September 2024.

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