By: Yolanda Watungwa, Undergraduate Student in Health Promotion
Congratulations are in order for many students during the month of June. June 2nd marked the day of the PLANS Celebration of Excellence, a program closing ceremony. PLANS’ Celebration of Excellence was a graduation celebration for Black students in Medicine, Dentistry and Health. The celebration also recognized the high school students who participated in our Co-op placements this past academic year. In addition to our graduates, we invited the Black Student Advisor, Dr. Theresa Rajack-Talley — the Vice Provost, Equity & Inclusion, Deans from the faculties of health medicine and dentistry, representatives from Labour and Advanced Education, Imhotep’s Legacy Academy, Steve Harding from the Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation and his teams as well as come of the sponsors of the PLANS co-op, PLANS Advisory Committee, and Jalana Lewis — Dalhousie’s Director of African Nova Scotian community engagement.
We started the event with a welcome to our guests led by Sarah Upshaw, the PLANS Program Manager, which was followed by an opening prayer led by Ronke Taiwo, the Black Student Advisor of Dalhousie University. We were also grateful to have had several guest speakers share a few words at the celebration. Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch, a Co-Chair of the PLANS Advisory Committee brought greetings on behalf of the advisory committee. Kenisse Trotman, a BSc Health Promotion graduate shared a bit of her journey and left the group with great insight.
“What helps Black youth to succeed? The same thing that helps anybody succeed; mentorship, connection, and relationships with faculty and classmates are so important at this point in our lives. And these are the things that PLANS excel in providing to Black students at Dalhousie University. I worked with PLANS as an aspiring physician and health care worker, and it has been some of the most enjoyable work of my undergraduate education.”
We are excited for what the future brings for Kenisse as she will be continuing her education at Dalhousie University in the fall as she has received her acceptance into Dalhousie Medicine. Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch proceeded to provide a beautiful articulation of the significance of the Kente sash. Kente cloth originated in Ghana among the Ashanti people and was traditionally worn by royalty in West Africa. The Kente sash is woven with several colours that hold symbolism to represent virtues such as serenity, fertility, renewal, and spirit to name a few.
“All the things that made me think that I might get there; nobody in my family is a doctor, I have to work in order to fund my education… I see the world differently because of the way that I look and the way that I move through Nova Scotia. And those things do not matter anymore. As a matter of fact, because of PLANS, I see them as helping me to succeed in my career aspirations.” – Kenisse Trotman
All of our graduates who indicated interest were personally mailed a Kente sash of their own.
After announcing the names of each of our graduates and highlighting those who received certificates with their degrees, we invited Steve Harding from Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation to share a word with our Co-op placement students. Following Harding, we listened to Janelle Colley, a grade 11 student from Auburn High School speak to her experience in the Co-Op Placement program this past year.
“I really enjoyed it because we got to get a feel for what we want to do, field-wise. My eyes were opened to a lot of different programs that I didn’t even know about. Although I still don’t know what I want to be, I think I have an idea.” – Janelle Colley
Despite having a virtual celebration this year, the event was a great success. We were thrilled to be met with the large group we had attended the event and join us in celebrating this year’s graduates. To echo what 2021 graduate, Kenisse Trotman, said so beautifully
“You cannot do it alone. Be open to collaboration. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you. Spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”
We extend great gratitude to everyone who was able to attend the celebration this year. Graduates, we admire you greatly and we are excited for everything you get up to in the bright futures you have ahead of you.