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The Garnet Key Society: ‘This is my chance to give back’

Concordia’s student ambassadors get involved — and broaden their horizons
December 7, 2016
By J. Latimer

From left: Mohammed Zokari, Chloé Evans, Michael Stein and Emilia Alvarez. From left: Mohammed Zokari, Chloé Evans, Michael Stein and Emilia Alvarez.

They’re enthusiastic, bright and bound for greatness.

Every year, Concordia’s Garnet Key Society invites 12 new, outstanding undergraduate students to the fold. You’ve probably seen them, sporting signature maroon jackets while welcoming and assisting guests at lectures and galas.

“It’s an incredible privilege to serve as an ambassador for Concordia and spend time with so many accomplished and inspiring people,” says Emilia Alvarez, vice-president of this year’s cohort of Garnet Keys.

Sponsored by Concordia’s president, the group comprises students with an ability to balance high academic achievement with community involvement. Each year, they also apply their skills to a special off-campus project.

“We’re still in the early planning stages for 2017, but we know the approach will be a bit different,” says Chloé Evans, chairperson for the Garnet Key community challenge. “We want to mobilize Concordia’s deep pool of students to resolve specific local issues.”

As the community project ramps up, get to know a few of the familiar faces from the 59th Garnet Keys.

Mohammed Zokari, president

His dream came true when he got to meet Canadian entrepreneur and TV celebrity Arlene Dickinson.  

The star of Dragon’s Den was at Concordia to receive an honorary doctorate during spring convocation in early June. As a Garnet Key, Mohammed Zokari attended social events for Dickinson and the other honorands.

“It was such a thrill to meet the famous ‘Dragon Lady.’ I admire her even more now,” says Zokari, a third-year finance student in the John Molson School of Business.

“Being a Garnet Key is a great way to broaden my horizons.”

While attending high school in Yemen, Zokari co-founded a charity that provided food and clothing for approximately 2,000 families. He has been busy ever since, pursuing his passion for investing through the Kenneth Woods Portfolio Management Program and cherishing time spent with the Garnet Keys.

“One morning, we had a breakfast with Jonathan Wener, the university’s chancellor, and it was so wonderful to have a two-way conversation,” Zokari says.

“Usually, people our age are on the receiving end. This was an occasion to converse and get our message across.”

Emilia Alvarez, vice-president

Emilia Alvarez doesn’t know what she values most — the chance to gain networking and diplomacy skills or the opportunity to meet people who inspire her to think big.

“It’s a very professional experience,” says Alvarez,. “It’s preparing me well for the future and opening me up to see what kind of initiatives I can take.”

After a stint in the Photography program, then working as a festival producer, Alvarez came back to Concordia to pursue her love of pure and applied mathematics. Eventually, she hopes to earn her PhD.

This fall, Alvarez founded Montreal’s Association for Women in Mathematics Student Chapter, a bilingual association to promote opportunities in math for students from all four Montreal universities.

Although she’s busy, Alvarez prioritizes Garnet Key events.

“Collaboration is an essential tool to success, so meeting like-minded students who are ambitious, motivated and resourceful has been a highlight for me,” she says  

“Not only are we part of a community of past and future Garnet Keys — almost 60 years' worth —  we are also making the most of our time at Concordia. I have met students, faculty and staff who have offered advice and help on my ideas, campus projects and studies. They’ve taught me to think more internationally about my options.”

Chloé Evans,
community project chairperson

When Chloé Evans met the Governor General of Canada, she knew she was operating in a special realm.

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston received an honorary doctorate from Concordia and spoke at convocation in June, as did film producer James Shavick,” says the JMSB finance student.

“Meeting these people who’ve achieved so much is really inspiring. It makes you feel that anything’s attainable with hard work.”

A member of Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education and the Kenneth Woods Portfolio Management Program, Evans is also a soccer and piano enthusiast who loves to read and write. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in impact investing.

In the meantime, her hands are full organizing the Garnet Key community project.

“My goal is to heighten awareness of social issues and generate solutions.”

Michael Stein, secretary

“At other universities, undergraduate students don’t get to know the president,” says Michael Stein, secretary of the Garnet Keys. “We’ve been to his house for dinner and he knows all of our names.”

Stein, who is in the final year of his BSc in Behavioural Neuroscience, can’t say enough about his experience with the group.

“It’s a great bridge between the student world and the administration,” he adds “We’re really here to promote a positive image of the university and foster good will with visitors.”

Both of Stein’s grandmothers attended Concordia. One received her bookkeeping diploma in 1964. The other got her BA in history, has two master's degrees and is working on her PhD.

An amateur musician, Stein plays the piano at a retirement residence in his free time. He’s applying to medical schools for September.

“Being a Garnet Key has been a humbling experience,” he says. “Concordia really built me up from scratch. This is my chance to give back to the school.”

Think you have what it takes to sport the maroon jacket? Email Concordia’s
Garnet Key Society to find out if you’re eligible to apply.


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