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Scarborough Walk of Fame honours rising stars helping youth chart their path

The Scarborough Walk of Fame is inducting new members to its group of honourees Wednesday, including two young people who have worked to empower and inspire youth in their community.

The walk of fame, which was launched in 2006, has more than 55 inductees, according to its website. Inductees have their names cast in metal stars that are placed in the Scarborough Town Centre.

While the walk of fame honours many who have spent decades making a difference, it also recognizes those who have already made an impact in their young lives, like Atqiya Fariha, the 23-year-old founder of FeminSTEM, and Swabir Shariff, the 25-year-old founder of The Good Guides.

The Good Guides is a youth mentoring program, while FeminSTEM empowers young girls to chart a path in the world of science, math, engineering and technology (STEM). 

“I just hope that by receiving this award that I can inspire other young people who feel held back by the things that make them unique, even if it’s something as simple as their gender or their age,” said Fariha.

For Shariff, having his name in the Scarborough Town Centre is a full circle moment.

“As a kid I could recall walking around the mall with my parents and even hanging around there in high school,” he said. “To be recognized by the centre and the community at large adds a little bit of fuel to my tank.”

Those honoured are selected through community submissions, of which there were more than 700 for this year’s list. Fariha and Shariff are joining an illustrious list of inductees, which includes David Onley, the former lieutenant governor of Ontario (inducted in 2006) and TV and radio personality Marilyn Denis (inducted in 2009).

Charting a path for the next generation 

Fariha started FeminSTEM with a friend in 2018 to help girls find their way. According to the federal government, women make up less than a quarter of the people employed in STEM in Canada.

Before the pandemic, FeminSTEM hosted a summer camp for elementary school-aged girls that explored all the STEM related aspects that go into building a city.

“Exploring these ideas that kids would see on a day-to-day basis but might not know how these things are done,” she said. “Our goal really was just to introduce them to the basis of STEM.”

A composite image of a young woman's headshot and a young man's headshot.
Atqiya Fariha, at left, and Swabir Shariff, at right, are two rising stars being inducted into the walk of fame Wednesday for their work in the community. (Submitted by Atqiya Fariha and Swabir Shariff)

During the pandemic, Fariha’s non-profit created a mentorship program for high school-aged girls thinking about a career in STEM. The program connected them with women in different university programs.

Fariha says her favourite part of FeminSTEM is hearing from girls that are considering a path in the field after taking part in her programs. 

Meanwhile, Shariff’s organization was born out of a feeling that many youth programs were overly prescriptive. He says young people are autonomous and want more control.

“Instead of telling youth to come in and do a sports or an arts program,” he said, “we work with the youth to figure out what are their interests, what do they think is going on in the community and how do they think they can make a difference.”

His organization has done things like resume building workshops, hikes outside the city and a kids backpack giveaway hosted by local youth.

People hand backpacks to kids across a table.
Members of The Good Guides hand out backpacks at an event organized by local youth in Scarborough. (Submitted by Swabir Shariff )

Like Fariha, Shariff says seeing the success of kids who go through his program is the most rewarding part. He said some students came to The Good Guides without enough high school credits to apply for university. 

“But four years later, they’re here graduating with a degree and finding a job in a career that they didn’t even know was out there for them,” he said.

Changing the perception of Scarborough

Glenn De Baeremaeker, chair of the walk of fame, says it’s meant to highlight the achievements of a traditionally underrepresented and under served part of Toronto.

“We’ve got to get rid of this perception that Scarborough is the poor cousin, the second class citizen. And we have to let people know just how great we are,” he said.

Aside from the rising stars, the new inductees include those in the arts, sports, politics and other fields.

Here is the full list:

  • Actors and brothers Shamier Anderson and Stephan James.
  • Rowan Barrett, father of Raptor RJ Barrett and manager of Canada’s men’s basketball team.
  • Former member of parliament for Scarborough Centre Pauline Browes.
  • Literacy advocate Camesha Cox.
  • Entrepreneur Sam Ibrahim.
  • Founding member of the Scarborough Walk of Fame Marg Middleton.
  • Cardiologist Dr. Vivian Rambihar.
  • Graphic artist Mark Stoddart.

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