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York U grad exemplifies determination and focus as the key to success

York U grad exemplifies determination and focus as the key to success

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York U grad exemplifies determination and focus as the key to success

From street dwelling to living in youth shelters as a teen, Ahmat Nokour Mahamat has overcome many challenges to achieve his post-secondary education dream

TORONTO, June 19, 2024 – “Tomorrow is going to be the happiest day of my life and I am so proud right now,” says Ahmat Nokour Mahamat, who says he has not had an easy life either in his native Chad, or in Canada, where he and his older brother Ahmat Nokour Brahim sought asylum eight years ago.

Ahmat Nokour Mahamat

Mahamat is graduating with a degree in business economics at York University’s spring 2024 convocation, crossing the stage during a convocation ceremony at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, June 20.

Theirs is a remarkable story of resilience, perseverance and passion: From living on streets and in youth shelters where they didn’t feel safe, to working midnight shifts, Mahamat and his brother have overcome many challenges to be where they are now. The brothers arrived in Canada at the age of 18 and 20, in 2016 and decided to start their new chapter in Montreal, a natural choice for the native French speakers.

“It was tough. But we didn’t give up and worked through those tough times,” says Mahamat, hoping their success story will serve as an inspiration to those who are having a hard time.

In Montreal, the siblings were initially supported by the YMCA with accommodation for 30 days in a shelter. They were then on their own for several months, finding jobs in a vegetable processing factory outside the city, where they worked from midnight to 5 a.m. cleaning spinach. “A car would come to take us to the factory and bring us back. It was cold and very difficult to live like that. So, my brother and I decided to come to Toronto.”

They left for Toronto with each other, $300 cash, and an unwavering determination to build a better life. Their first stop was Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre downtown.

“At times, I wanted to give up and return to Montreal, but my brother and I took turns encouraging each other. On the fifth day, we agreed that if we didn’t find a shelter, we would go back,” recalls Mahamat. Fortunately, they were provided a more permanent shelter by Raising the Roof the same day. “We did not have close relatives or friends in Canada at that time, and we did not speak a word of English either. We started taking English classes immediately.” Mahamat is now fluent in English thanks to Ed-Vance, a program offered by the Toronto District School Board’s City Adult Learning Centre.

Ahmat Nokour Mahamat with his older brother Ahmat Nokour Brahim,right, who graduated last year with a degree in International Studies Program offered at the Glendon Campus

He hasn’t looked back. While Brahim opted to apply for International Studies at York’s bilingual Glendon Campus, Mahamat took the required high school credits and English as Second Language proficiency tests, before applying for the Business Economics Program at the Keele Campus. “Initially, I didn’t consider applying to York University because I thought I wouldn’t get accepted.”

However, a friend suggested Mahamat apply as he had heard of York providing access to those in precarious situations if they met eligibility criteria and had the passion to pursue higher education. “I still remember vividly the moment I found out I was accepted to the program at York.”

During his final year, Mahamat received an Aspiration Award for progressively improving his grades. “I was not doing all that well in the first two years but in the third year, I got straight As in most of the subjects,” says Mahamat, who took advantage of peer mentoring support from higher year students.

Needless to say, Mahamat was pleasantly surprised to receive the bursary that eased some of the financial burden on his tight budget. “I wasn’t expecting this money – it was definitely a great help financially.”

The awards program is run with the support of York University alumni and other donors. It ensures that outstanding undergraduate students like Mahamat, who have financial needs and have improved their GPA, receive the help they need to succeed, says J.J. McMurtry, dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies. “It's an incredibly important promise to our students that we try as hard as we can to offer support to them, be it for mental well-being, numeracy and language help, or financial assistance. It is heartening to note that York has been an impactful part of Mahamat’s path to success.”

As it is, Mahamat is thought to be the first student from Chad to graduate from York’s Keele Campus, and an English-language program, unlike many others including his brother, who opt for French-language programs at Glendon.

Mahamat has already found a full-time job in the auto financing sector and hopes to return to York to complete his honours in finance. The 26-year-old, who received his Canadian citizenship in 2023, is now able to focus on further stabilizing his life in Canada. 

The Scarborough resident has taken the day off from his job in Mississauga to attend the convocation ceremony and celebrate the occasion with his brother and best friend Brahim, and with close friends from Toronto and Montreal. “I am so excited!”

York University is a modern, multi-campus, urban university located in Toronto, Ontario. Backed by a diverse group of students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners, we bring a uniquely global perspective to help solve societal challenges, drive positive change and prepare our students for success. York's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education. York’s campuses in Costa Rica and India offer students exceptional transnational learning opportunities and innovative programs. Together, we can make things right for our communities, our planet, and our future.

Media Contact: Gloria Suhasini, York University Media Relations and External Communications, 647-463-4354,