#1 Ikram Ibrahim
Ikram Ibrahim was named Wawa Aba in the 2018 African, Caribbean and Black Graduation ceremony. In the Akan culture, this is the name of the tough seeds of the Wawa tree and thus synonymous with a strong or unbreakable person. In this case, it was used interchangeably with valedictorian: the graduate that aims to preserve and share African-Canadian traditions within their community.
Eldon Holder and Soraya Lemur explain the story behind the Wawa Aba in English and French.
According to Ibrahim, within multicultural countries like Canada and the United States, people celebrate milestones in different ways. Many graduation ceremonies, like her’s from Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, are steeped in a tradition that can feel foreign. She says the ACB ceremony was familiar and warm.
“It was colourful, the music, the energy, the traditional African dancing. It was artistic, it was really a celebratory moment and it was different…we were doing something that was closer to our heritage and that was a really beautiful thing to be a part of.” – Ibrahim
The offer to be Wawa Aba at the 2018 ACB graduation happened around the same time she was offered a position in the federal government and the next day she relocated to be closer to her current job as a Program Manager at Public Service Procurement Canada. She says she would not have this position without her M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction. She considers it a fulfilling position.
Since then she has also been involved with the Somali Education Fund—volunteering as a panelist and mentor figure to high school aged youth; the year prior she worked as an ESL teacher at the Royal Canadian Mint. Currently, she is earning her TESOL certification at the London Language Institute to teach English as a second language.
She says, “I want to keep my options open. I’m working in the government and getting my certification… this certificate will allow me to have the best tools that I can have to help students in whatever field I decide to do.” She says she is taking it one year at a time.
To this year’s graduates she says, “Never stop learning and growing, do not stop being curious; do not think that learning stops when you get a piece of paper.” Youth should remain hungry for opportunities, and where they do not see them they should create them. Approach those you admire, ask for mentorship or ask to shadow them.
“The worst thing that could happen is that they say no.”