On 27 September, the 2017 GradStar Awards were held at the Indaba Hotel in Johannesburg. The awards, meant to recognise and showcase young student leaders across the country, saw 3 500 applications narrowed down to a top 100 list of students from across the country.  Sponsored by FNB, Comair, PwC, Fasken Martineau and Khonology, applicants progressed through a rigorous four stage judging process, culminating in a day of workshops hosted by the programme sponsors. Judging of applicants in 2017 was done by Khonology, who will also be responsible for judging applicants in 2018.

This year’s awards saw UP claim 32 positions of the top 100. Notable speakers at this year’s gala dinner included management consultant and motivational speaker Dr David Molapo as well as the youngest Member of Parliament in South African history, Honourable Hlomela Bucwa. Addressing the students and attendees to the event, Bucwa said that “We find ourselves in a critical time in history, particularly as young people, a time in which we must discover our generational mission for the sake of our nation and for future generations.” Bucwa addressed several problems South Africa faces, including access to education, the high unemployment rate and political and financial instability, appealing to the students present to strive to “become agents of change” in addressing South Africa’s challenges. “When I was reading the purpose of this project [GradStar programme], I realised the fundamental impact it has to change not simply how I perform but how I think,” added Bucwa. According to Laura Barker, Managing Director of BlackBark Productions, the founder and organiser of the event, GradStar aims to recognise some of the most talented and employable students from across the country and connect them with the top employers and graduate programmes. “The students really feel the programme has made a difference in their lives [and] likewise the sponsors are committed to helping these young people. Fasken Martineau, PwC and FNB have supported us in both year 1 and year 2 and Comair, although a new sponsor in 2017, has already committed to partnering in 2018,” said Barker. She adds that, “As a team, we are all very committed to the upliftment of South Africa’s youth and the promotion of excellence.

South Africa has some amazing young people and it’s time they were recognised and rewarded. We are talking about the future leaders of this country and we hope to give them the motivation and opportunity they need to go all the way.” Of the 100 students, a top ten was then selected at the gala dinner. The “Ten of the Finest” were chosen by the sponsors themselves during a full day of workshops with the students. Two UP students, Roxanne Dickson and Emma Alimohammadi, both from the Faculty of Law were selected. Speaking to Perdeby, Dickson said “The GradStar Awards was an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. It was amazing to connect with brilliant students from all over the country while getting to learn from esteemed people in different industries … it was an honour and a privilege to be selected as one of the top 100 students and we were totally spoiled by all the sponsors of the event. Dickson adds that being selected as one of the top 10 students left her shocked. “It meant a lot to me to receive this recognition as I’ve worked really hard throughout my degree and the awards were not only based purely on high academics, but on qualities such as altruism, leadership ability and well roundedness. This whole experience has given me a complete confidence boost and has taught me that if I just have a little bit of faith and believe in myself, I can do anything.” According to Emma Alimohammadi, the second UP student selected as one of the ten finest, “The 2017 GradStar Awards provided an exciting platform to network with potential employers from various industries as well as like-minded and driven students from across South Africa. It was a unique opportunity in which I learnt more about myself through psychometric testing, problem-solving and team work exercises.

At the end of the two-day conference, I left feeling inspired.” Alimohammadi added that she felt humbled to have been selected as one of the top ten students “as the top 100 students were exceptionally accomplished in all areas of both their professional and personal lives”. “ I am more motivated than ever to continue pursuing my passion; a career in law, and to make meaningful impacts in the lives of others,” she added. Other notable students who were also selected as the top 100 included Arend Kahlau, Dregeana Chairperson 2018, Mishkah Sattar, 2017/2018 SRC presidential candidate and Zaleekhah Dawood, who was also a recipient of the award last year.

Entries to the 2018 GradStar Awards are now open.

The full list of GradStar Awards recipients from UP:

  • Alwin Robin
  • Andrea Yazbek
  • Arend Kahlau
  • Arlene Lehman
  • Ashleigh Sent
  • Cailín Smith
  • Charne Janse van Rensburg
  • David Richard Buytenhuys
  • Emma Alimohammadi
  • Heike Schroder
  • Hilde von Grüning
  • Jean Ruan Stols
  • Justine Dominique van Greenen
  • Kelly Sian McLachlan
  • Lawrence Jordaan
  • Mahlolo Clinton Mphahlele
  • Marc Von Goethem
  • Marko Svicevic
  • Maxine Clement
  • Melissa Rudo Mushonga
  • Michael Schumann
  • Mishkah Abdool Sattar
  • Rethabile Toona
  • Roxanne Dickson
  • Ruan Gräbe
  • Ryan Thomas Van Rensburg
  • Shannon Barnard
  • Sriya Beharie
  • Targo Dove
  • Thuli Ndlovu
  • Tian Lategan
  • Zaleekhah Dawood


Image provided.

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