Ajamu Attard is the National Director and CEO of Student Support in Canada, and his journey as an entrepreneur has been riddled with struggles and successes along the way.
With an intense determination to better his community from the get-go, young Attard, now 27, has been the recipient of about a dozen prestigious awards such as Top 20 Under 20 Award and the Lincoln M. Alexander Award.
“Just a couple years before receiving those awards, I was in a shelter,” says Attard, looking back to high school.
Early struggles as a student
Attard faced hardships during his school years, but he remained determined to make a positive impact. Despite years of struggle and what he frankly describes as a period of temporary mediocrity in his academic career, Attard decided to focus all his efforts on improving his own life and becoming a leader in his community.
Although Attard coasted through school for a while, his situation quickly changed and he went on to become an entrepreneur and a community leader in his own right.
Attard took a victory lap, and focused all his spare time on bettering his community and helping his fellow students realize their potential and find new opportunities in academics, post-secondary education, funding and scholarships, and community involvement opportunities.
Attard went on to continue making a difference, launching community initiatives to help eliminate racial discrimination in Ontario. Among other efforts to assist in his community, this is the one that would get him nominated for the Lincoln M. Alexander Award.
Having experienced racial discrimination himself, and being one of the few students of colour in Peterborough, Ontario, Ajamu Attard decided to take a stand and help his fellow students in more ways than one.
Attard helped his fellow students write scholarship applications, and eventually went on to start a scholarship matching service for students. The service was successful, helping students acquire over half a million dollars in scholarship funding.
Attard says students would struggle to find the right scholarships at the time, and would ask for his help.
“All they wanted was for someone to find the opportunities for them,” says Attard.
It was shortly thereafter that both Attard’s peers and staff at his school began to take notice of his remarkable achievements as well as his determination to make a difference in the lives of his fellow students.
Ajamu Attard says if he didn’t have the support of staff, who later became aware of his situation, he would have gone down the wrong path.
“Many teachers took extra time out of school to quite literally support me because they found out I was working two jobs and doing all these different things,” says Attard.
One situation stood out to Attard in particular when a teacher sat him down and told him to avoid hanging the wrong crowd, and to go all-in on his vision. Speaking highly of his potential and his intelligence, young Attard was given a second chance to make something of himself.
It was then that Attard became hyper aware of the potential vices as well as the pitfalls of being not just a student, but a struggling student – a student that was struggling financially, emotionally and with clarity. With an unpredictable future, it was hard to make the right decisions to drive positive growth.
At the time, it was hard to think long-term because Attard was struggling with poverty and anxieties brought about from his turbulent childhood and living situation.
According to Ajamu Attard, making a definitive decision to change and impact his community for the better was one of the best decisions he has ever made. At the time, seeking to affect more positive change and expand his efforts within the community and in his own work, Ajamu Attard went on to find Student Support.
The launch of Student Support
It was in second year at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, where Attard met fellow students, and later to-be cofounders: Brent Colby and Scott Braddon.
Attard speaks highly of his co-founders, and says they were equally as driven and determined, both with a voracious appetite to learn as much as possible about starting a social enterprise.
Student Support officially started in 2021, after two of the three co-founders had graduated. Starting well after the scholarship service Attard had created, he felt confident knowing he had the prior experience under his belt.
The team decided to make Student Support a service that would benefit students and help make essential supports more affordable to the student body.
It was in the early stages that Ajamu Attard was reminded of both his struggles and successes as a student. He recalls truly being able to focus and devote his energy towards building his community as well as profitable enterprises when he was given help by teachers and peers.
Today, Student Support is partnered with major services that provide a whole range of support services to students from education to fitness and writing tools.
Student Support partners with Calm, Udemy, Nimbus Learning and Aaptiv to provide students with support throughout the university year at a fraction of the cost.
“We’re talking about 98 percent off,” says Attard.
Though many students have been in favour of Student Support, there has been occasional pushback by student organizations over the years, and Student Support was able to overcome that each time.
Student Support provides services to the student body after a referendum at each institution, and after gaining majority support, they provide their services. Students still have the option, however, to opt out at any time.
Attard says Student Support’s journey has been inspiring and filled with lessons along the way.
One thing that inspired Attard was that some students would opt in to Student Support even if they didn’t need the service. Their goal was helping their fellow students get access to essential supports and help lessen the cost burden among the student body.
Attard says it’s fulfilling to know that Student Support empowers students to be able to empower their fellow students to gain access to the support they need.
Between essential writing services, meditation services, a near limitless archive of education resources and more, Student Support is eager to form more strategic partnerships and meaningful relationships to bring more services to students at a fraction of the cost.
Next steps for Ajamu Attard
While current day-to-day operations at Student Support keeps Ajamu Attard on his feet and working around the clock, he does his best to continue giving back to the community and exploring his passions.
Ajamu Attard attended a convention with RISE – an organization that lends funding and support to entrepreneurs with mental health issues.
Attard is also exploring speaking opportunities to discuss social entrepreneurship, and encourage others to follow their passions as well. On his website, he allows organizations to book him for conferences and as a keynote speaker.
Attard wants to leave budding entrepreneurs and students alike with a final note.
“Community is about uplifting each other, and it’s our job to make the world a better place.”