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What’s Next for These Woodsworth Bronfman Scholars


Woodsworth College's Bronfman Scholars prepare themselves for life beyond graduation. 

By Emily Allison, Staff Writer


The Brookfield Bronfman Gold and Leadership Scholarships are awarded to high achieving Woodsworth College students in their final year of study. In a social environment impacted by COVID 19, the transition out of undergrad has been unusual to say the least. However, even during this difficult time, two of these graduating Bronfman scholars, Layan Elfaki and Isabella Gallello, plan on using their leadership skills to serve their community and pursue careers inspired by their experiences at U of T.

For Layan Elfaki, a Gold Scholarship recipient, her participation in mental health awareness initiatives, like volunteering at Healthy Minds U of T, has impacted the way she approaches COVID 19. Interacting with other students through outreach events “raised my awareness of the pervasiveness of mental health issues. As a result, this helped me normalize my own struggles with mental health and perceive them with a more positive outlook,” said Elfaki. Although she hasn’t been able to promote mental health awareness to the same extent as during her time at U of T, Elfaki will continue to advocate for the importance of social support networks well after graduation. “I look forward to expanding my efforts beyond U of T to marginalized communities that face a multitude of stressors on a daily basis that hamper mental health,” said Elfaki.

Transitioning out of undergrad is no easy feat, and during COVID 19, graduates must adapt to increasingly unfamiliar conditions to pursue their goals. Isabella Gallello, a Leadership Scholarship recipient, has found a virtual means for funding her advanced studies in neuroscience. “For the summer I’m back at work to pay for school. I’m currently managing the online grocery orders at Loblaws City Market. In September I start my PhD in Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia,” said Gallello.  

With their resilience and motivation intact, it’s clear that COVID 19 isn’t going to hamper the academic and career orientated pursuits of these graduating scholars. “My interests lie in researching neural deficits underlying neuropsychological disorders. Fortunately, I received my acceptance for the master’s program at the Institute of Medical Sciences at U of T commencing this fall. My long-term goal is to obtain my master’s degree and subsequently attend medical school to specialize in neuroscience,” said Elfaki.

During these times of social distancing and solitude, both Elfaki and Gallello have had time to reflect on their experiences at U of T, providing words of encouragement for students continuing their studies in the fall. “I think for me what I truly learned in undergrad is that it’s okay to admit when something is too much and that there is no shame in asking for help. Before moving to Toronto and starting at U of T I had this mindset that I had to accomplish everything on my own. It wasn’t until my fourth year that I started to ask for help when I needed it. U of T, and Woodsworth especially, is full of support and people that want to help you, but you have to reach out,” said Gallello.

For Elfaki, the most valuable piece of knowledge she is taking away from her time at U of T is the merits of perspiration. “Achieving academic success at U of T can be challenging, especially when compounded with mental health challenges, financial barriers or lack of representation that students like myself may face. However, what I have realized across my four years of undergrad is that anything is achievable with hard work and resilience, but you have to make sure to not personalize your failure and rather perceive it as a valuable learning experience. I will rely on this sense of empowerment as I navigate my prospective career in medicine,” said Elfaki.

Although the cancellation of the in-person convocation ceremony was disheartening, as all students look forward to this important milestone, both Layan Elfaki and Isabella Gallello have ambitious life objectives and aspirations to celebrate their achievements with loved ones during happier times. Their time as U of T undergrads may have come to an end, but their promising future is just on the horizon. Congratulations Class of 2020!

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