It's only been a few years since Nigerian-born teen Richard Nonso arrived in Windsor.
Now, the 17-year-old University of Windsor student has up to $5,000 of federal funding to put into a project of his own design: An online hub that helps Grade 12 students find an academic pathway to a career in technology, based on their personal interests.
"I believe (this grant) is going to be very beneficial, to help me kick-start the project," Nonso said before a ceremony at the WFCU Centre on Wednesday.
"I'll be able to get support from a developer to help me actualize what I'm planning to build online."
Richard Nonso, 17, of Windsor's Nigerian community explains his project that received a $5,000 micro-grant via the Tomorrow's Leaders Starting Out program. (Dalson Chen/CBC)
The money for Nonso comes from a program called Tomorrow's Leaders Starting Out (ToLSO), funded by the Canada Service Corps.
Nonso was one of several micro-grant recipients who were awarded and celebrated on Wednesday by the Windsor-based community group Nigerian Canadians for Cultural, Educational, and Economic Progress (NCCEEP).
Although the ToLSO program is available to grant candidates of any background (ages 15 to 30), NCCEEP member and program manager Ayodele Adefala believes it's particularly important to support the enterprising efforts of young people of colour representing immigrant populations — such as Windsor's Nigerian community.
Ayodele Adefala, a program manager with the Windsor-based non-profit community group Nigerian Canadians for Cultural, Educational, and Economic Progress. (Dalson Chen/CBC)
"We are actually giving these kids the platform to achieve and clutch their dreams," Adefala said.
"These projects are a labour of love with so many participants... I'm super excited for the opportunity to give back to the youths."
The logo of Tomorrow's Leaders Starting Out, a micro-grant program funded by the Canada Services Corps. (Dalson Chen/CBC)
Nonso's tech project was inspired by his own journey: He enrolled in post-secondary education early, and was originally studying business, but decided mid-way through his studies to switch to computer science.
"I realized that computer science is one of the ways to leverage an entrepreneurial mindset to where the world is going," Nonso said.
Nonso's father, Nonso Alisigwe, said Nonso's academic prowess has allowed him to skip grades, and he's set to graduate from the University of Windsor this year.
Fellow grant recipient Moshood Saka, 22, has a project with a similar online component, but with a more recreational purpose: Helping youth ages 10 to 16 find free or heavily discounted sports participation opportunities.
The project will involve a website that Saka intends to continuously update with local information. His focus, initially, will be soccer — the sport that Saka was most passionate about when he arrived in Windsor as a child from Nigeria.
Moshood Saka, 22, of Windsor's Nigerian community, explains his project that was awarded a $5,000 micro-grant via the Tomorrow's Leaders Starting Out program. (Dalson Chen/CBC)
"When I came to Windsor, I didn't know where to play sports... I found some places to play, but I wanted to play in an actual team," Saka said.
"Someone from the Nigerian community paid for my seasonal package to play for the summer. So I realized, it costs money! It costs money to play sports in Canada."
"Now I can put (the information) out there and it's easily accessible by anyone with a phone or a laptop."
Saka plans on eventually expanding the site to include information on other popular sports with a low cost of entry, such as basketball.
The banner of the Windsor-based non-profit group, Nigerian Canadians for Cultural, Educational, and Economic Progress (NCCEEP). (Dalson Chen/CBC)
Originally from Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, Saka said he's grateful for Windsor's Nigerian community — which he described as "very strong."
"They have been been very supportive, giving me mentorship, (to help) gain a lot more confidence."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.