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Nine SFU students and alumni honoured at this year’s Surrey Board of Trade Top 25 Under 25
Nine SFU students and alumni were celebrated for their work and contributions to the community during the Surrey Board of Trade’s annual Top 25 Under 25 awards ceremony on April 20.
The awards honour business or community-minded people under 25 who work in Surrey or contribute to a business/community-related project in or for Surrey. This year’s ceremony marks the first time since the pandemic began that the event has been hosted in person.
“The SBOT Top 25 under 25 is one of my favourite events of the year,” says Steve Dooley, executive director of SFU’s Surrey campus. “I’m so glad that we were back in person to celebrate the amazing achievements of not only our leaders of tomorrow, but for the outstanding work they are already doing in our community.”
This year’s winners are from multiple faculties: SFU’s Beedie School of Business, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, Faculty of Applied Sciences, and Faculty of Health Sciences.
The winners are:
Arnav Dada, 22, SPARK Foundation
Arnav is the vice president of finance and strategy at SPARK Foundation, a non-profit organization that empowers the next generation through life education programs. Arnav led successful several SPARK projects—most recently, the COVID-19 Relief Project, which donated more than 1,500 backpacks with food and supplies to various organizations and communities. His many accolades include the Governor General’s Sovereignty Medal for Service, the highest volunteer award in Canada. The Beedie School of Business student also works at KPMG, one of the world’s largest accounting firms.
Vanessa Fajemisin, 24, Solid State Community Industries
Vanessa is co-director of Solid State Community Industries, a non-profit organization that addresses the economic mobility of racialized migrant youth. Its Youth Hub for Cooperative Enterprise helps young people start their businesses and set up worker-owned cooperatives, allowing them to build life skills. She is also a mentor to the Daily Dose of Blackness cohort and a member of the Solid State web and design team. The communication student uses her eclectic interests, skills, and ideas to create positive futures for racialized youth and their communities.
Arsh Gill, 22, SFU Axis Consulting
As managing director of Axis Consulting, a student-led pro bono consultancy at SFU, Arsh oversees several portfolios and supports more than 30 student consultants through 50+ client engagements. She is a member of the Student Council with the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CMC-Canada) in BC and a career coach at the SFU Beedie School of Business, where she is in her final year. She has previously been a business analyst with Fraser Health Authority, supporting its five-year transformation program across 11 teams.
Daniel Istifanus, 24, CoinPlay
Daniel, a computer engineering major, is the founder of CoinPlay, a cryptocurrency exchange platform that provides consumers with secure, immediate, and cost-effective methods of purchasing cryptocurrencies. CoinPlay, a local business that simplifies transactions and expands payment options using a revolutionary customer service model, made more than $500,000 in revenue in its first year of operations. Daniel hopes to scale and expand CoinPlay to provide innovative currency access to people in his native country of Nigeria.
Jshandeep Jassal, 23, Solid State Community Industries
Jshandeep is the other co-director of Solid State Community Industries. She is also the lead mentor and co-founder of three other Surrey-based non-profit organizations, including GenConnect, Let Her Talk, and the South Asian Healing Network. The SFU alumnus, who graduated with a BA (honours) in sociology (minor in criminology and certificate in social justice), works to address a wide range of local social issues including racism, immigrant inequity, social isolation, mental health, and gender-based violence. She also advocates for animal welfare.
Jesika Kula, 24, Seedling Art Co.
Jesika, who works as the marketing and communications coordinator at SFU’s Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship, is also the founder and CEO of Seedling Art Co., a mental health-focused start-up specializing in eco-friendly art and journaling products. Her keen sense of empathy and lived experience working through mental health challenges have driven her to improve and destigmatize the mental health landscape for teens and young adults, and spark interest in entrepreneurship as a tool for problem-solving and innovation. Jesika is a recent SFU graduate with a BA in Interactive Arts and Technology and a Certificate of Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the Beedie School of Business.
Natasha Mhuriro, 25, Black in BC Community Support Fund for COVID-19
Natasha is a young Zimbabwean intersectional feminist passionate about empowering young self-identified women. She is a co-founder of the Black in BC Community Support for COVID-19, a community-based non-profit organization that fundraises to provide emergency low-barrier micro-grants to Black people in BC, and has an exceptional devotion to amplifying young Black women’s voices. She served as president of the African Students Association and as an active member of the Black Student Wellness Committee while pursuing a degree in political science and business.
Samer Rihani, 24, Little Things Matter – International Society for Children’s Health and the Environment
Samer, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health at SFU, is a research coordinator for Little Things Matter – International Society for Children's Health and the Environment, a group that promotes leading research in environmental health. Samer currently holds a seat on the BC Lieutenant Advisory Council for the Honourable Janet Austin, where he represents the City of Surrey. He helped establish SFU's Blood, Organ and Stem Cell Club. His community work has led to several awards, including the 2019 Dr. Jack Uppal Community Service Award, the 2020 Brendan Midgley & Joseph Stryjak Celebration of Life Award for outstanding community service at SFU, and the Faculty of Health Sciences Outstanding Community Service Award for making meaningful change in his faculty during his undergraduate education.
Avneet Sandhu, 25, She Connects Foundation
Avneet, who graduated from SFU with a BA in international studies, is the co-founder, vice president, and co-director of external relations for She Connects, an initiative that provides mentorship to young women in high school. Avneet started the initiative after being selected as a Daughter of the Vote delegate in 2019, representing the Fleetwood-Port Kells riding, during which she sat in the House of Commons and Senate in Ottawa to bring concerns facing her communities. Currently, she works at the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces.