Samra (Younus) Zafar cried when the call came. Then she danced around the house with her daughters and called her mother and best friends.
They were celebrating Zafar’s latest achievement – being named the John H. Moss Scholar by the University of Toronto Alumni Association. The scholarship is one of the most prestigious undergraduate awards at the university, awarded annually to only one student from all three campuses.
“I get goosebumps thinking of it,” she says. “I don’t have words for how much this recognition means. It reinforces my belief that hard work and determination always pay off.”
A few short years ago, Zafar could only stare longingly at the small green road signs that pointed the way to the University of Toronto Mississauga. Personal circumstances prevented her from attending but school remained her dream.
Years of dogged determination and difficult choices passed before Zafar could continue her education. Now in her fourth year in financial economics at UTM, Zafar maintained a near-perfect CGPA throughout her degree and has won numerous awards, including the Faculty Choice Award. She is also head teaching assistant and a researcher with the City of Mississauga.
“I couldn’t think of a more deserving candidate,” says economics professor Gordon Anderson. “Samra is an exceptional student and a very good teacher who cares about what she does. She has overcome difficult personal circumstances to achieve what she has.”
Zafar says Anderson and many others at UTM provided the support she needed to persevere. “I’m very fortunate to be part of this amazing department and campus. I couldn’t have succeeded without them. My friends here are my family.”
Zafar volunteers at the UTM AccessAbility Resource Centre and was a senior mentor with utmONE, helping first-year students adjust to university life. Remembering her own struggles, she works with the Afghan Women’s Network, where she holds support and study groups.
Her future plans include more education, and meaningful work. Zafar, now a single mother, is determined to show her daughters a path to success. “I want them to have a good life, where they can feel confident, live with respect and believe in their ambitions,” she says. “Everyone should have the opportunity and freedom to chase their dreams.”
The Moss Scholarship, valued at up to $16,650, recognizes a graduating student who shows outstanding academic and extracurricular leadership. Zafar will be honoured at the Awards of Excellence ceremony in April.