Ajamu Attard, Carleton ’19, attributes connections he made while living in a homeless shelter to now helping other students overcome hurdles to be successful.
Brother Attard, now twenty-six years old, received the Lincoln M. Alexander award when he was nineteen for his efforts in demonstrating leadership in community work and helping to eliminate racial discrimination in Ontario.
In 2015 he was also recognized as one of Plan International Canada’s 20 under 20 for his efforts to address some of the community’s most pressing problems.
Since then, Attard has worked hard to start Student Support, helping struggling students across the province. The organization, which has more than twenty employees, partners with international service providers Calm, Grammarly and Udemy to offer students needed academic help and relaxation techniques during their educational journey.
Inspiration for the organization came from Attard’s own experiences.
High School Years
When young Attard graduated from high school, things were quite tough for Attard. Riddled with behavioral issues, addiction problems, lack of motivation and drive to excel in school, he found himself at a shelter for homeless youth and a bit of time to reflect on what his life would look like if he stayed on this path to nowhere.
Attard said if it wasn’t for those who helped him get connected to services in Peterborough when he needed them, he wouldn’t be where he is today. The guidance he received from teachers and administrators, and a family that offered him a place to live, changed his life forever.
While Attard struggled with his own ups and downs in life, he soon was looking for ways to help others in a similar situation as himself.
He graduated Saint Peter Secondary School, and as most Canadian students, he pursued a fifth year at a different to provide direction and purpose. His family had many carpenters, and the initial school he hoped to attend was geared toward the trades and construction. As fate would have it, this school had no openings, so an alternate option became available and proved to be the place where Attard would begin to pay back the kindnesses shown to him in the previous months.
That year at Central Toronto Academy was a turning point for Attard. He saw this year as a fresh start and had newfound vision and motivation to do good work for others as a way to pay forward the kindnesses shown him.
During his time at Central Toronto Academy, he founded the Student Activist Association, which exposes immigrant students to volunteer opportunities that help them integrate, build experience, and receive references needed to get jobs. While in high school, Zuberi led a youth group called Boys to Men, helping young men of all races talk about cultural and social pressures, and served as a peer educator for St. Stephen’s Community House, where he developed and facilitated workshops on harm reduction related to substance abuse. Zuberi also led the multicultural club, which addresses and reduces racism by bringing awareness to cultural celebrations such as Black History Month.
Attard said he started Student Support to help students get scholarships, but he quickly learned they needed more than just money. Partnering with program developers such as Grammarly, Calm and Udemy, the program assists students struggling in their academic careers.
“Essentially students can get access to all of these services through Student Support for $17.56 per semester.”
Currently, Ryerson Students’ Union has purchased around 8,000 subscriptions for their students. To generate interest at other schools, they’ve established teams of students at around ten other schools, working to bring Student Support by spreading awareness. The company hopes to spread across Canada, North America, and then worldwide. The goal remains to help students perform and live better while they focus on educating themselves.
Student Support tries to create a world where students don’t have to worry about their bills, and get support they need whether it’s therapy, financial assistance, grocery delivery, tutoring, or a supportive community. Their partners include Ongrocery (free grocery delivery in Ontario), Grammarly (writing assistance), Nimbus Tutoring, Calm the world’s #1 mental health app, Aaptiv (thousands of expertly designed fitness programs, accessible anywhere), and Udemy which provides over 6,000 online leadership, management, tech, business, wellness, and marketing courses.
Phi Delta Theta and Ontario Epsilon
Brother Attard was one of several founders of the chapter at Ontario Epsilon. The Fraternity’s motto, Become the Greatest Version of Yourself, aligned with his newfound vision to make the best of himself and those around him.
He, along with friend, Michael Snow, ’18, were seeking a fraternity experience different that the norm at Carleton. The two worked with the other founders toward installation. Both Snow and Attard served the chapter as community service chairmen. One of their very successful events was a food drive that collected over twenty boxes of food for the Ottawa Mission.
The two have remained friends, and Michael currently works with Student Support as director of partnerships.
Some excerpts from an Examiner Reporter article by Matthew P. Barker