Scholarship empowers under-resourced teens in Toronto to explore a career in media
Makers founder Sumit Ajwani and Future Makers scholarship recipient Abena McRae are seen in this composite image. Handout
Published Tuesday, September 12, 2023 3:59PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2023 9:20AM EDT
When entrepreneur Sumit Ajwani was growing up in Scarboroughin the 1990s, the idea of a career in media was “absurd.”
“My parents wanted me to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer,” he said in an interview with CP24.com.
“My school had no media program whatsoever, but I made a film for a class, and fell in love with making movies at a young age. And my school was really amazing about it – the principal got me a computer, and set me up with a camera, and even gave me space in the school to edit. Stuff that’s unheard of now. That level of care changed my life, and set up my career.”
Ajwani, 40, recognizes how much that support helped him as a young person with aspirations in media production. Now, as an established media professional and founder of production company Makers, he has created a scholarship for students at high schools across Toronto.
Recipients of the scholarship are given the opportunity to create a project of their own, and are afforded resources including a Mac laptop and iPhone, a year’s worth of access to the Adobe Creative Suite, and $1,000 towards producing a new project.
Each recipient is also paired with a producer from Makers as a mentor.
“I want to help these kids find a passion, and a love for media and storytelling,” Ajwani said. “I want to see more diversity in media in general. This is how we get there.”
Abena McRae, a student at C. W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in North York, was chosen for this year’s cohort of Future Makers thanks to her project, The Random Act of Kindness Bracelet, which strives to spread positivity amongst students who might be struggling with their mental health after COVID.
“I wasn’t really confident at first, but my teacher had so much confidence in me,” she said in an interview.
“I had fun making the project. My sister joined, and her boyfriend. I got to interview my guidance counsellor. When my video came together, I was really proud of my work – the whole process of making the video was just amazing.”
McRae, 17, says she “wanted to spread positive energy” after the pandemic, which her project aims to achieve using a token of kindness: a friendship bracelet.
“Everyone loves free jewelry,” she said, adding that she might keep studying media when she heads off the university, but she hasn’t decided for sure yet.
“We’d love to see us get to a place where we’re helping 100 kids make their projects,” said Ajwani. “This is a partnership between us and the schools, and we know it’s making a difference. We want to do some real good in schools that don’t have programs like this.”