East End scholarship winner staying fashionable at home

Chantelle Johnson, the inaugural DECA Young Leaders Scholarship winner, at East Lynn Park June 23, 2016. PHOTO: Anna Killen

Danforth CTI graduate Chantelle Johnson is a young woman with both style and substance.

Motivated from a young age to work hard, overcome barriers, and give back to her community, Johnson’s dedication paid off earlier this year when she was named the inaugural recipient of the DECA (Danforth East Community Association) Young Leaders Scholarship. Money for the scholarship was raised through a ping pong tournament held throughout east end parks last month.

The $2,000 scholarship is one of two she received her graduating year (the other from Toronto Police Services) and the money will go to pay for her first semester at Humber College studying Commerce Fashion. The money will make a big difference for Johnson’s post-secondary experience, relieving a big financial burden and allowing her to focus on her studies.

“This scholarship is going to help pay for my first year, big time,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay for this and this and this…”

Fashion is Johnson’s passion, she works part-time at a clothing store, and has a goal to one day launch a fashion line of smart, affordable clothes for plus-size women.

“Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel,” Johnson lists off when asked about her favourite designers. “I like the lower-priced fashion designers like Heather Sanders – she’s my ultimate favourite. I kind of want to be like her, but more in the plus-size industry.”

She said Humber will be a great place to study the business of fashion, particularly because of Toronto’s place in the fashion landscape.

“Right now, I think we are in a good time for fashion, especially in Toronto because Toronto is one of the best places to start a fashion boutique in this country,” she said. “Toronto is a growing place, it’s already diverse and multi-cultured, so I think doing fashion in Toronto will be a great place to start.”

Johnson describes her style as classic, on trend, “but a little mixed with my own – sassy, more out there.”

That confidence extends beyond her clothing – she’s been a young leader at Danforth throughout her high school career, with an impressive list of extra-curricular activities and positions. Think: vice president of student council, head of the Black Student Association, member of the principal’s advisory committee, captain of the softball and basketball teams, organizer of her building’s Back-to-School Community Barbecue.

“I wanted to be a leader in my school, I wanted to make a difference in my school,” said Johnson of her motivation to become so involved. “Danforth, when I started Grade 9 everyone thought it was the worst school ever, especially because the fire happened the summer before I came there. I wanted to make a difference and show people that it really wasn’t that bad.”

She’s going to miss Danforth, she said, noting the aesthetics of the building.

“The architecture is so nice – I’m going to miss coming to school every day and seeing the architecture,” she said. “The school is old and a historical school site.”

But she will still be a fixture in the East End. While she wanted to live on campus, the cost of residence is high, so she will be living at home and commuting an hour-and-a-half to school each day – a practical solution for a young, modern woman of the day.

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