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Nigel Enniss “New Heights” Award celebrates those who build up Black communities

February 14, 2023
Nigel Enniss
Nigel Enniss, Social Work ’05

The life and legacy of Nigel Yohance Enniss, a graduate of TMU’s School of Social Work and a champion for Black youth, inspired the recent creation of the Nigel Enniss “New Heights” Award in Humanitarianism — a new award for Black students in the School of Social Work who are committed to uplifting people of the African Diaspora. 

No achievement was ever too small for Enniss to mark with some kind of celebration, whether it be throwing a party for, or presenting a card to, his family, friends and the young people he worked with at the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto in Scarborough, recalls his wife Pierrette Walker-Enniss. 

“Nigel was an honourable man of service who lived a very full 40 years of life,” she says. “When he died, thousands of people tuned into his funeral.”

In 2021, when it came time to celebrate his life, his family and friends, church community, and colleagues from the Umoja Black Social Workers Association and the Children’s Aid Society came together to fund the award, surpassing their $25,000 goal to reach $30,000 within a month. 

The donations were matched by TMU’s Faculty of Community Services, bringing the value of the endowment to $60,000 and launching an annual award in perpetuity. For decades to come, the award will support Black students who work to advance their communities.

Moha Jire, inaugural winner of the Nigel Enniss “New Heights” Award in Humanitarianism
Moha Jire, inaugural winner of the Nigel Enniss “New Heights” Award in Humanitarianism

The inaugural award winner is first-year student Moha Jire, who has been committed to humanitarian work since age 18. She has been a Ghanaian Humanitarian Envoy improving the lives of orphans and children in Ghana, and a social justice advocate in the peace-building process between Sudan and South Sudan. Jire has also helped racialized and marginalized women and children navigate their first years living in Denmark. She continues to serve the voiceless and vulnerable communities in East and West Africa and Northern Europe.

“I am honoured and feel privileged to receive the Nigel Enniss Award. Thank you,” says Jire to Enniss’s family, friends and wider community, and to the School of Social Work. “Social workers are devoted individuals who like to help others passionately; I feel responsible for genuinely dealing with vulnerable communities, correcting systemic barriers and implementing lasting solutions.”

Enniss, who graduated from the School of Social Work in 2005, was a well-known advocate for community building and advancing racial justice, including fighting anti-Black racism both in the community and the profession that he loved.

Marsha Brown, Social Work ’09
Marsha Brown, Social Work ’09

The campaign to fundraise for this award was initiated by alumna Marsha Brown, also a School of Social Work graduate and a friend and colleague of Enniss. 

When the community came together to share their experiences with Enniss, says Brown, “Young men poured their hearts out about how Nigel, a man only 20 years their senior, had changed their lives.” Brown, who is also a director of the Black Social Workers Association, adds that “Nigel was always full of life, energetic and had a great passion for youth and for his community. We needed his legacy to live on.”

The award, the first to honour a Black man in the School of Social Work, ensures his legacy endures, particularly for his son who was born just a few months after Enniss’s death. 

When Enniss’s son is old enough to ask questions about his father, says Walker-Enniss, “Nigel has left a rich repertoire for me to pull from. I may not be able to give our son his father, but there are so many wonderful things I can direct him to, and I’m happy that TMU is a special place that we can visit to think about him.”

Pierrette Walker-Enniss and Nigel Enniss, Social Work ’05
Pierrette Walker-Enniss and Nigel Enniss, Social Work ’05

The “New Heights” in the award’s name was inspired in part by Enniss’s years working in the Lawrence Heights community in Toronto and, in part, by Enniss’s goal to build physical spaces for young people to gather.

“Nigel’s formative and influential experiences and friendships came out of Lawrence Heights. We actually met at the community centre,” says Walker-Enniss. 

If Enniss was here to speak directly to social work students and future award winners, Walker-Enniss believes he would tell them: “You can’t do this work without an anti-Black racism lens. The impact of colonialism on Black and Indigenous bodies continues. And as you do your work, you need to advocate for those communities, and think of culturally appropriate ways to respond to their care.”

To learn more about creating an award to support students in the School of Social Work or the Faculty of Community Services, please contact Anthony Bakerdjian, Development Officer, by emailing