Leaside High’s graduating superstars

This is a banner year for exciting news about university acceptances and scholarships at Leaside High.

Three students – Sahar Abdalla, Cindy Chen and William Chinnery – won the prestigious TD Canada Trust Scholarship for Community Leadership, granted to only 20 students across Canada. Denise Wilson, curriculum leader for guidance, says it is the first time there have been three recipients from one school, testament to these students’ outstanding qualifications. The scholarship, valued at $70,000, includes paid summer employment, mentorship and networking opportunities.

Two other students – Gemma Postill and Sydney Morrison – are pursuing their dreams of medicine and veterinary medicine at the University of Western Ontario and the University of Edinburgh, respectively.

Sahar Abdallah
Recognizing the challenges faced by youth in one of Toronto’s most multicultural communities, Sahar became a youth director on the Flemingdon Park Parent Association. She started a drop-in homework centre for students from Grades 4 to 6 and served as one of the tutors. Sahar also organized leadership workshops and a soccer house league. She was an editor of her student newspaper and was on the robotics team. Sahar plans to study software engineering at the University of Toronto.*

Cindy Chen. Photo By Janis Fertuck.

Cindy Chen

Cindy has a wide variety of interests. After tutoring a blind teenager in Beijing in English, she started a program called Vision Exchange to connect sighted English-speaking mentors with blind Chinese partners. The program has expanded to 120 participants in three countries. Cindy also ran music theory and science youth camps at the Victoria Park Hub community centre. After taking part in an entrepreneurship and science program at Laval University, she realized she wanted to be an engineer and initiated the business club at school. Cindy will be studying engineering science at the University of Toronto, and hopes to become a professor or economist while continuing to compose music.*


William Chinnery. Photo By Janis Fertuck.

William Chinnery
Ever since arriving at LHS, William was indispensable to staff and students alike. His 2,000 hours of community service were inspired by the volunteers who helped him as a young cancer patient. William is president of both the tech crew and the radio club in charge of announcements. He designed an online test registration process for special education students to get support during tests which has been adopted by other schools. At Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, he introduces children to technology and robotics, and he provides audio-visual and technology mentorship to students at Northlea. William will be taking business technology management at Ryerson.*


Gemma Postill. Photo By Janis Fertuck.

Gemma Postill
Gemma has received one of the five President’s Entrance Scholarships at Western worth $65,000. She plans to study medical science and pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. First inspired by her Grade 7 science teacher, who introduced her to the wonders of the human cell, Gemma has had several summer experiences in which she was exposed to medical settings and interactions with patients: a volunteer trip to Argentina in 2015, a Student Leadership Conference in Health and Medicine in Washington, and Oxford Scholastica in 2016.




Sydney Morrison. Photo By Janis Fertuck.
Sydney Morrison. Photo By Janis Fertuck.

Sydney Morrison
In Grade 7, Sydney did a science project that involved breeding dwarf hamsters. When the mother disappeared, Sydney took the tiny babies to Leaside Animal Clinic to find out how to care for them. Six of the seven survived, she got 100% on the project and decided to become a veterinarian when she saw “the fragility of the babies and learned how to help them.” Now she works at the same clinic as a technician, and this semester is doing a co-op placement there, shadowing a veterinarian. Sydney has decided on the University of Edinburgh because the program is placement-based and matches her learning style. She is excited about her future and can hardly wait for her “lambing placement” next Easter Break.

* Information courtesy of TD Scholarships website.

About Janis Fertuck 108 Articles
Janis Fertuck is a retired English teacher who spent the last 30 years of her career at Leaside High School. She enjoys writing about the vibrant Leaside community where she and her husband have lived for 22 years. Her other favourite pursuits include a part-time job at a boutique on Bayview and volunteering with the Bayview Pixies.