Sydona Chandon, a St. Thomas University advocate for Black and international students, was named International Student Champion by the New Brunswick Multicultural Council.
Chandon, a 22-year old student from Jamaica, said receiving this award during Black History Month makes her think of the Black icons that are highlighted throughout February.
“I feel like winning this award during [Black History Month] makes me feel like I am walking in their footsteps,” she said. “Hopefully one day I can have that much of an impact as they have had on society.”
Chandon said as an international student, life usually involves working a job, going to school and staying in touch with family. Still, she said her passion to give back and be involved on the STU campus propels her to make time in her schedule for what she loves.
From 2019 to 2020, Chandon sat on the St. Thomas University Students’ Union as the international student representative, where she helped develop a leadership award for international students.
She currently sits on the STU International Students’ Association as the fundraising officer. During her time with STUISA, she worked on creating inclusivity events which, she said, could be as simple as a coffee house or movie night.
She’s also the vice-president of the Black Students’ Association, where she is working on an upcoming initiative with her team to recognize Black-owned businesses in Fredericton for Black History Month on the BSA’s social media channels.
Chandon also worked on personal initiatives like when she brought students together to participate in a conceptual photo and video shoot to portray Black legacy by highlighting Black icons like Martin Luther King and Kobe Bryant.
“Without diversity or experience, [we] would be bland and not as interesting,” she said. “I feel like it’s essential that we identify people that have given back, especially from diverse groups.”
Chandon said when she first found out that people nominated her for the award, she was amazed and honoured that people thought she was making a positive change.
The N.B. Multicultural Council had several award categories to feature cultural diversity in the province including Large Business Champion, Small/Medium Business Champion, Individual Champion, Immigrant Entrepreneur Champion, Immigrant Youth Champion and International Student Champion.
Chandon’s award aims to recognize an international student who demonstrates outstanding leadership and entrepreneurial qualities in the student’s community, college, university or place of work.
“After seeing that I was able to receive an award of this importance, I understand more what it means to be a catalyst for change,” she said.
Chandon said she thinks it’s important to give back to the community and also recognize those who are giving back.
She said she wants students to know that even if they don’t have much to give, the act of giving is what’s important.
“If there’s one thing I could encourage students to do, [it’s] to really get active and let their voices be heard on campus,” said Chandon.
“I want to inspire others to have that same goal of just giving back and also sharing kindness amongst each other.”