Symbolic, educational and uplifting are the words Sabrina Teklab used to describe the 2018 African, Caribbean and Black graduation ceremony. She says she feels that the Ottawa community tend to work in silos and as a result no one knows what the young people are doing. Ceremonies like this highlight the work young black students are doing both inside and outside of school—recognition is both symbolic and important, she says.
Teklab’s family was there to support her and it was obvious to her that they appreciated people wearing traditional clothing. This is something, she pointed out, that people may not have been comfortable doing in their school graduation ceremony.
“It was nice to wear my traditional clothing, to have my mom see me graduate again…it was definitely a powerful moment.”Sabrina Teklab
According to Teklab, events like this are especially important to recognize those who may be the first in their family to achieve such a thing. The strong youth presence was something she said was educational for her younger sister. “It was nice for her to see a class of people in different disciplines, in different types of work, doing a lot of extracurriculars and being able to look up to them,” she says.
Since then she’s become a Senior Mentor in the Youth Futures program, a seven month program that provides youth with different skills, workshops and training to prepare them for employment and post-secondary education. Partnered with Ottawa Community Housing, it focuses on youth who do not necessarily have a family that have gone through post-secondary education. In this role, Teklab has co-facilitated all public events, facilitated employment opportunities, provided support with job retention for 150 youth over the summer with a team, provided advanced leadership training, provided post secondary education days and provided parental engagement sessions for all youth in the program.Sabrina’s Impact by Chelsea Emode
As a Mentor Coordinator for Big Brother Big Sister Ottawa, she creates matches between youth and mentors, she co-facilitates three in-school group mentorship programs for newcomer youth and is working to ensure mentors for black and Inuit youth in Ottawa are paired with mentors who reflect their identities and interests.
In addition to that, she volunteers as a mentor to youth in various communities, is the co-chair at the Ottawa Police Advisory Committee, volunteers at the Somali Hope Academy Gala and helps with outreach at the Young Leaders Advisory Council. She plans to go back to school at the London School of Economics where she’s been accepted for the International Migration and Public Policy masters program.
She said a huge thing that she learned in her schooling experience is that there are learning opportunities everywhere.
“Not everything goes according to plan after completing your degree, but there is such incredible beauty in that fact. It means that there are learning opportunities all around you as long as you are willing to absorb them.”Sabrina Teklab
She advises this year’s graduates to remember that the world is their oyster, and as overwhelming as that sometimes may be, it is also a privilege to be able to take risks and follow passions. According to Teklab, youth should never limit themselves. They should be dedicated to looking within so they can figure out what it is they want their legacy to be.