Joan Donaldson Scholars

2021 Joan Donaldson CBC News Scholarship recipients

Donaldsons for 2021

Alejandrina Alvarez Debrot | UBC

Alejandrina Alvarez Debrot is a Venezuelan-Canadian multimedia journalist. Born in Caracas, Alejandrina realized she wanted to be a journalist at age five while watching her dad get interviewed when it dawned on her that she could make a career doing what she loved — asking questions. She studied elementary school in South Bend, Indiana, which explains why she still says tennis shoes instead of sneakers. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto and an M.J. from the University of British Columbia. In her time between degrees, Alejandrina spent a year working for a market research firm, which inspired an unexpected, and sometimes unrequited love for data science. Alejandrina did an internship at The National and worked as a screener and digital production assistant at CBC's call-in radio show, Cross-Country Checkup. She loves talking to callers from around Canada; they help her better understand the country she immigrated to. She has reported on Canada's discriminatory visitor visa selection process, Indigenous-led habitat restoration, and Vancouver womxn's body image issues. When she isn't telling stories, you can find her dancing flamenco or playing the piano. You can keep up with her on Twitter @aledebrot

Alexandre Silberman | St. Thomas University

Alexandre Silberman is a journalist who has lived and reported across the Canada-U.S. border. With family roots in Quebec, he was raised in a bilingual household in Burlington, Vermont before moving to New Brunswick. Alexandre has a B.A. in journalism and political science from St. Thomas University and lives in Fredericton, N.B. He has also studied at Institut Albert le Grand in Angers, France. Interested in public service journalism from an early age, he got his start working for local news organizations while still in high school. As a reporting intern at VTDigger, a non-profit newsroom, Alexandre told the story of how heightened security has changed the way of life for people living along the international border. He also uncovered allegations against a long-term care home, and was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists for reporting on the opioid crisis in rural Vermont. Since his third year of university, Alexandre has worked at CBC New Brunswick as a reporter and associate producer. He is passionate about stories that bring light to the lesser-known people and communities who call the province home. Alexandre's stories have aired on CBC News Network, Atlantic Tonight and World Report. Find him on Twitter: @SilbermanCBC

Anna Ashitey | Ryerson University

Anna Ashitey's appreciation for broadcast began at the age of seven in Mississauga, Ontario, where she recorded make-shift radio shows on her family's computer creating stories and reporting on the weather. During high school, she volunteered with Rogers TV Access Peel, where she was a reporter for local events. She followed her deep-rooted passion for broadcasting and received her Bachelor's Degree in Media Production with honours at Ryerson University. Anna applied her field experience and academic understanding of radio broadcast as the Program Director for Ryerson's streaming service, SpiritLive. In a collaborative endeavour to examine sustainability at Ryerson, she worked on the exposé, The Green Project, for Ryerson's independent newspaper The Eyeopener. During her under-grad, she worked as a Research Assistant interviewing women in radio on their experiences with equity and diversity within Canadian media. Anna conducted a panel discussion on racism in Canada with CBC's Asha Tomlinson for Ryerson's Global Campus Studio in 2020. She is currently producing her first educational children's podcast, Billy Blue!, as a call-to-action to redefine the inclusion of school children with learning accommodations such as dyslexia and ADHD. You can find Anna painting in her backyard or enjoying a bike ride through her neighbourhood. Connect with Anna on Twitter: @AnnaAshitey

Baneet Braich | Carleton University

Baneet Braich is connecting the digital dots through journalism, multimedia content, and marketing. Baneet was raised in Abbotsford, B.C. and pursued a degree in journalism and political science from Carleton University. Beginning her broadcast journey in high school, Baneet hosted a community radio show called the Generation Z show. Since then she eagerly explored media opportunities as a videographer, freelancer, and strives to be an active force in digital media transformation. In 2016, she joined Black Press Media as a digital marketer and videographer. Through authentic storytelling, Baneet weaves an emotional and empathetic approach to her journalistic work. From tech, travel, to human interest stories, Baneet investigated how artificial intelligence is influencing racial bias in hiring processes, social media manipulation during the federal election, and medical training tensions between B.C. paramedics and firefighters. She also helped break a CBC story on a young football star who died by suicide after being denied medical help. In 2020, Baneet joined IT World Canada to host Hashtag Trending, a podcast about popular tech news. As a Canadian with roots from Punjab, Baneet aspires to cover the adversities and achievements of the South-Asian community among other diverse marginalized voices. Twitter @BaneetBraich1

Émilie Warren | Carleton University

Émilie Warren is a trilingual multimedia journalist with a Master of Journalism from Carleton University. She enjoys reporting on foreign affairs, geography, health care and social issues. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of British Columbia. Émilie has always been curious about the world around her. She was born in La Malbaie, Quebec but spent most of her childhood in the small South Pacific island, New-Caledonia. After high school, she went to Ecuador to teach English. In 2014 she did an internship in Rwanda, working with UNICEF and World Relief on a study about child malnutrition. Her latest move brought her to Ottawa, where she still is today. Émilie worked at Global Affairs Canada for more than two years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. Émilie has interned with CBC Quebec and worked as a part-time reporter for Capital Current last summer. Her work has been featured on CBC Nova Scotia, Capital Current, and iAffairs. Last year she was awarded a grant from Carleton University to report on the immigration of African and South American priests to rural communities in Canada. Connect with her on Twitter: @warren_emilie

Fenn Maddox Mayes | Concordia University

Fenn Mayes grew up on Vancouver Island with a SLR camera in hand and an enthusiasm for art, culture, and the outdoors. He earned a degree from the University of Victoria in Gender Studies, winning awards for investigative research projects and academic excellence. He has worked as a wildfire fighter in British Columbia and Australia, at a permaculture farm in Costa Rica and, after relocating to Montreal, he built furniture for local businesses, mowed the grass on Mount Royal, and volunteered at the Centre for Gender Advocacy. An alumnus of the Graduate Diploma in Journalism at Concordia University, Fenn's journalism combines subversive stories that complicate dominant narratives with his affection for people. The long-form nonfiction he loves most exposes imbalances in political and social power by offering diverse perspectives while never losing its sense of humour. Fenn's aim is to bring Canadians the kind of news that keeps them in their car parked in the driveway with the radio on, or the kind of article that someone would stick on their fridge because one of his ideas stuck with them. When he's not dreaming up fresh stories, he's lifting heavy things at the gym.

Jessica Singer | Western University

Jessica Singer was born and raised in Richmond Hill, Ontario. She holds two degrees from Western University – a B.A. in Information and Media Studies, and a Master's in Journalism and Communication. During her undergraduate studies, Western's campus-community radio station, Radio Western, became her second home. Jessica spent her time outside the classroom writing news briefs and producing morning broadcasts about student politics and activism, and she was presented the Kevin Newman Broadcaster of the Year Award in 2018-2019 for her outstanding dedication to the station. After volunteering at the station and writing for Western's student newspaper, The Gazette, Jessica was hired as Radio Western's news coordinator. There, she hosted and produced multimedia stories about topics ranging from hookup culture on Western's campus to how those who are legally blind are coping during the pandemic. Between her degrees, Jessica produced multimedia stories for Western's Electrochemistry and Corrosion Science group, where she mainly wrote about solutions for nuclear waste disposal. Jessica has an insatiable curiosity to explore untold stories and she enjoys using audio storytelling to turn small stories into something bigger. She is most interested in stories about mental health awareness and racial, religious, and gender equality. You can find her on Twitter @jessicaesinger

Karina Zapata | Mount Royal University

Karina Zapata is a Calgary-born journalist who is passionate about telling in-depth, seldom-told truths. This passion grew as she completed her bachelor's degree in journalism at Mount Royal University, accompanied by a minor in social innovation to better understand systems and the roles citizens play in them. During her undergraduate degree, Karina held the position of co-lead editor for the Calgary Journal, as well as the arts, layout then publishing editor for the Reflector. She discovered her love for investigations when she worked on the Institute for Investigative Journalism's award-winning Tainted Water project, which uncovered high levels of lead in drinking water across Canada. She completed a fellowship with the institute shortly after. In the last year of her degree, Karina produced a multimedia website that explores Canada's blood donation restrictions for men who have sex with men, which won second place at the ACP Pacemaker Awards for 2020 Multimedia Story of the Year. In her spare time, she runs Femme Handbook, a magazine she co-founded that is dedicated to empowering women through creative content. As a Filipina-Canadian, Karina's goal is to help the public better understand the lived experiences of underrepresented communities. Connect with her on Twitter: @bykarinazapata

Katie Swyers | Ryerson University

Katie Swyers is a Toronto-born multimedia journalist who loves in-depth storytelling and community news. Her habit of asking too many questions led her to the Ryerson School of Journalism, where she worked extensively in student media. Katie served as a media editor for Ryerson's independent student newspaper, The Eyeopener, produced a weekly community newscast for CJRU 1280AM and worked as an editorial lead for Kaleidoscope magazine. In 2019, she took part in the Tainted Water investigation, working with 120 other journalists and students to expose drinking water issues across Canada. Her work, focusing on inequitable drinking water conditions in First Nations in southern Ontario, appeared in The Toronto Star and Global News. In 2020, she interned with the Investigative Journalism Bureau, contributing to Generation Distress, a cross-border investigation examining the youth mental health crisis in Canada and the United States. Her love for human rights reporting and visual storytelling combined when she and three other students created the documentary Trafficked, which explores how human trafficking is a local issue in Canada and won an Amnesty International Canada media award and the 2019 student award of excellence from The Canadian Association of Journalists. Connect with her on Twitter @KaySwys

Mariyam Khaja | Ryerson University

Mariyam Khaja is a Toronto-based journalist and recent graduate of the Ryerson School of Journalism. She is passionate about telling the everyday stories that might otherwise pass us by, whether that's loneliness on student campuses or what it's like to work at a women's shelter during the pandemic. While still a student, Mariyam completed editorial internships at Chatelaine, Inc. and Canadian Business, developing an interest in reporting on social issues and marginalized communities. She has also served on the masthead of various student publications at Ryerson. This past year, she was the managing editor of IQRA Magazine, an online publication that seeks to tell the stories of Muslims working to better their own communities. She was also previously the editor-in-chief of Ryerson Folio, an online and print magazine. Her work has appeared in Maclean's, Canadian Business, This Magazine and Chatelaine, among other publications. You can keep up with her on Twitter @mfkhaja

Maya Lach-Aidelbaum | Concordia University

Maya Lach-Aidelbaum is a trilingual journalist from Montreal. She obtained a degree in Environmental Science in 2017 from Dawson College, where she discovered her passion for story-telling while writing for The Plant. She graduated from Concordia University with a BA in Journalism and a minor in Women's Studies. While studying, Maya produced and hosted a feminist radio show called Femme AM and created a podcast about poetry. During her student exchange at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich, she wrote for Verge Travel Magazine, reported in German for M94.5 radio, wrote for a tech startup and hiked in the Alps as often as possible. In 2019, Maya interned at CBC Montreal's newsroom. She produced multimedia content on issues including local impacts of the opioid crisis, climate strikes, and the federal election. Maya later became a chase producer for CBC Montreal's flagship radio show, Daybreak, with stints working for CBC's Quebec AM and Let's Go. Maya strives to tell stories about diverse, often underrepresented communities, and has a knack for discovering unconventional angles -- like companies using brine and beet juice instead of road salt to remove snow. In her spare time, you can find her discovering the city's nooks and crannies on foot or by bike. Find her on Twitter @MayaAidelbaum

Yasmine Ghania | Carleton University

Yasmine Ghania is a multimedia journalist with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. Originally from Cairo, Egypt, Yasmine came to Canada in 2007 and was amazed by Canada's press freedom and journalists' ability to hold public officials accountable. Yasmine's love of political journalism grew when she interned at CTV's parliamentary bureau in 2019 and worked on memorable stories such as former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer's resignation and the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. The following year, she became a chase producer for CTV's Power Play and then a federal politics reporter for Canada's National Observer. Yasmine is deeply passionate about telling stories that matter and effect change. She helped break a story for CBC Saskatchewan about a man in distress who sought medical help hours before taking his life, which led to the Saskatchewan Health Authority admitting they "failed." Her bylines have also appeared in Black Press Media, Open Canada and Ottawa Life Magazine. As an Egyptian-Canadian, Yasmine is determined to bring a nuanced perspective to oversimplified regions and populations, especially the Arab diaspora. Yasmine speaks English, French and Arabic. Connect with her on twitter: @ghania_yasmine