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CBC News 2014 Joan Donaldson Scholars

Congratulations to the eight outstanding recipients of the 2014 Joan Donaldson Scholarship and the Weather Centre scholarship winner. You can also find out about past recipients.


Sachi Wickramasinghe, Sarah Petz, John Paul Tasker, Sima Sahar Zerehi, Garrett Hinchey, Salima Punjani, Leah Balass, and Kaitlyn McGrath


Garrett Hinchey | UBC (Vancovuer)

Being born and raised in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories has had an enigmatic effect on Garrett Hinchey. The frontier spirit of his hometown has imbued him with a desire to explore the unknown, yet the tight-knit familiarity of living in a small, frigid city has given him great passion and responsibility for his hometown and territory. Garrett’s journey into journalism first took him south to Vancouver, where he’s written for The Globe and Mail and ESPN and produced video for The Tyee; and then back home, where he first worked at award-winning magazine Up Here and then in all mediums across CBC North’s Yellowknife newsroom during a summer internship. Garrett’s interests range from business, to politics, to arts and culture, but are focused primarily on sports, Northern issues, and Indigenous issues. These concentrations merged during his thesis, where he created a multi-platform, multi-lensed look into the legacy of the Arctic Winter Games – a circumpolar sporting event including contingents from Canada’s territories, Alaska, Greenland, Russia, and Scandinavia. Garrett’s philosophy on journalism is reflected in his portfolio, his upbringing, and his lifestyle: never say no, never forget where you came from, and always find a way to be proud of your work.



John Paul Tasker | Carleton University

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker grew up in Unionville, Ontario just north of Toronto. He attended McGill University in Montreal where he majored in history and Canadian and Quebec politics. He graduated with first class honours and dean’s honours list distinction. He was nominated to apply for a Rhodes scholarship but opted to stay in Canada. His passion for telling Canadian stories led him to Carleton University where he completed his Master’s of Journalism. He was the recipient of several awards during his tenure at Carleton including the Andrew McIntosh Award for Investigative Enterprise, a testament to his passion for investigative journalism. But it was during a summer internship at Marketplace that he fell in love with the art of broadcast journalismHe helped produce two episodes alongside the unflappable Kathleen Coughlin who taught him how to be a “dog on a bone,” never stopping until a story is told. Since then he has worked on Power and Politics with Evan Solomon and for CBC Radio One in Ottawa. He has covered a diverse range of national and local stories from changes to medical marijuana laws to federal budget day. He is deeply committed to public broadcasting and the unique role the CBC plays in Canadian public life.



Kaitlyn McGrath | Western University (London)

Kaitlyn McGrath attended Western University — although when she started it was known as the University of Western Ontario — for both her undergraduate and master’s degrees, receiving a BA in English literature and then a MA in journalism the year after. While attending Western, Kaitlyn worked for The Gazette, the only daily student newspaper in Canada. Eager to break into journalism, Kaitlyn walked into the paper’s office during her first month at Western and wrote her first story. While at The Gazette, Kaitlyn worked as a sports editor, opinions editor and the paper’s associate editor. Kaitlyn’s broadcast work has been featured on CHRW, Western’s campus radio station and she appeared as a regular guest on The Gazette’s weekly live radio show. In the winter, Kaitlyn interned with The Globe and Mail in Toronto. From the blackouts to the gigantic cleanup efforts, Kaitlyn helped cover every stage of the storm for Canada’s national paper. Kaitlyn originally hails from Toronto, and while she loves every part of the city, she’ll always be an east ender at heart.



Leah Balass | Concordia University (Montreal)

Leah Balass can rely on her inquisitive nature and insatiable curiosity to introduce her to the world of stories. Born and raised in the multicultural city of Montreal, Leah completed her undergraduate degree at McGill University in Business Management and Marketing. After graduating, Leah moved to New York City, where she worked for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and interned at the United Nations. Leveraging her knowledge of five languages, Leah interacted with diplomats from around the world while at the UN, and was fascinated by the diversity of stories that she encountered. She then decided to pursue her graduate studies in Journalism at Concordia University in Montreal. During her time at Concordia, she began working at CBC Montreal as a researcher in the TV newsroom, where she assisted reporters by conducting interviews, putting together video packages and drafting script. Leah has travelled to more than 25 countries around the world, discovering local and personal stories that she explored through writing, photography and video. It is through journalism that Leah hopes to combine her cultural curiosity with her fearless creativity to bring enriching stories to others.



Sachi Wickramasinghe | UBC (Vancouver)

Sachi Wickramasinghe grew up in the United States, Sri Lanka and Nepal before immigrating to Canada in 2007. Her curiosity about the world, belief in the importance of public journalism and love of all things digital are inspired by her life as a third culture kid. For Sachi, connecting online began as a way to keep in touch with friends around the world but soon evolved into a lifelong passion. She explored culture and identity in online fan communities for her Honours BA in Sociology before specializing in new media and society and global journalism and human rights at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism. Her master’s thesis took her back to Sri Lanka on a journey that explored how people remember history and places in the aftermath of conflict and violence. She was also part of a team that produced a SNCR Excellence in New Communication Award-winning and COPA-nominated social media strategy for Vancouver Magazine. Sachi has interned with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Global National and The Early Edition on CBC Radio One in Vancouver, where she was also hired as a casual associate producer last year. Through her journalism, Sachi hopes to chronicle the incredible new shifts in our lives as connected Canadians and global citizens.



Salima Punjani | Concordia University (Montreal)

Salima Punjani is a born Vancouverite with a sense of wanderlust that has led her to travel across Canada and the world. After graduating with a degree in Communications and Political Science from Carleton University she worked as a Promotion Agent for the Odyssey program promoting cultural exchange between English and French speaking Canadians. Salima then moved to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as an Asset Based Community Development Program Assistant with Oxfam Canada and the Coady International Institute. It was here she started to discover her passion for using creative mediums such as photography and sound to contribute to filling the gap in accurate, balanced reporting from emerging countries. On her return to Canada, Salima developed her skills as a social artist, using photography as a creative response to pressing social issues such as the effects of the economic crisis on young Canadians as well as to foster dialogue about cultural diversity in Montreal. After repeatedly seeing contrasts between what she saw through her own eyes and what the media reported, she decided to pursue graduate studies in journalism at Concordia University in Montreal. She plans to focus on hyperlocal storytelling wherever she lives – highlighting stories that showcase a more positive, holistic view of people locally and around the world.



Sarah Petz | Carleton University (Ottawa)

Born and raised in Manitoba, Sarah Petz cut her teeth in journalism at the age of 18 when she was hired on as a news reporter for the University of Manitoba student newspaper, The Manitoban, where she later became head of the news department. In her short career she has worked for several local and national publications, including Maclean’s On Campus, the Winnipeg Free Press, the National Post, CBC Manitoba, and most recently, CBC’s Power and Politics. She is graduating with a master of journalism degree from Carleton University this spring. In the summer of 2013, Sarah lived in northern Uganda, where she held an internship at a local radio station in Gulu while completing research for a radio documentary on how land conflicts are affecting recovery and development after the end of the civil war. In the fall she produced a documentary entitled ‘Life by the Hands’, which tells the story of Christen Bennett, who was diagnosed with breast cancer just days after giving birth to her son. The documentary explores Bennett’s journey to regain her self-confidence after undergoing a mastectomy, and the challenges many women who undergo the surgery face.



Sima Sahar Zerehi | University of King’s College (Halifax)

Sima Sahar Zerehi grew up in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, spent her childhood migrating through Turkey and Italy and finally settled in the hyphenated space that connects the word Iranian to Canadian. She has spent years working as a community advocate and human rights activist, community journalist, college instructor, immigration settlement worker, researcher, trade union representative, and media coordinator. Her passion, however, is journalism. During the 2009 Iranian election she expanded her journalistic work by writing weekly columns in the Iranian-Canadian community newspaper Shahrvand. Her articles synthesized news from Iran and the global Iranian community for an audience that included mainstream journalists, community activists and politicians. In addition to writing weekly articles, she became a spokesperson, giving voice to the activism and goals of the Iranian community in the diaspora. Since then, she has been a regularly guest on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, various CTV news shows, as well as other media outlets. During her time in Halifax she has had the opportunity to collaborate with Global Halifax, the Dalhousie Gazette, the Halifax Media Coop as well as Our Times Magazine.