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Jasmine Jenkinson: “Your Voice is Power” winner

Jenkinson on the award, future advocacy plans
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Jasmine Jenkinson is the winner of “Your Voice is Power” and U of T’s National Scholarship. PHOTO COURTESY OF JASMINE JENKINSON
Jasmine Jenkinson is the winner of “Your Voice is Power” and U of T’s National Scholarship. PHOTO COURTESY OF JASMINE JENKINSON

On a summer evening in Midland, Ontario, Jasmine Jenkinson joined a Zoom call. The 18-year-old was expecting a procedural interview as part of a coding competition she had entered; instead, she was met with a congratulatory message from singer and producer, Pharrell Williams. It was official: the incoming UTM student was one of the five winners of “Your Voice is Power,” a North America-wide music remix competition.

“They played a video of Pharrell congratulating the five grand prize winners, and then my name and photo came up on the screen,” Jenkinson recounted. “I was super surprised.”

“Your Voice is Power” is supported by Pharrell Williams, Georgia Tech, and Amazon. It prompts students to code beats while educating them about how music, computer science, and initiative can be used as tools to further racial equality. Participants were required to work with EarSketch, an audio engineering program, to remix Pharrell’s song “Entrepreneur” to fit the theme of racial inequity. 

The Varsity talked to Jenkinson via Zoom about winning the competition, receiving U of T’s National Scholarship, and her future endeavors. 

“Your Voice is Power” submission

Jenkinson was introduced to “Your Voice is Power” by a former teacher, Ms. Calder from Ellenville High School. Jenkinson explained that Calder, who made her class enter “Your Voice is Power” as part of a project, learned about the competition’s modules herself so that she could provide advice to any students entering the competition. 

Jenkinson’s “Your Voice is Power” entry was inspired by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and her reaction to the social injustices experienced by the Black community worldwide. Her submission included audio clips from news broadcasts of BLM protests. Jenkinson also recorded herself singing Pharrell’s lyrics to show that her individual voice has power, and that anyone can use their voice to make a positive impact.

“It just kind of came to me,” Jenkinson explained about her idea. “I knew I had to include the [BLM] news protests… I could already hear the bridge in my head. And I could hear the music and the news protests that I wanted to add in. So that’s where I started.”

Winning U of T’s National Scholarship

Though most widely known for “Your Voice is Power,” the coding competition wasn’t the only accolade Jenkinson was awarded this year. The recent high school graduate had also won U of T’s National Scholarship, the institution’s most prestigious award for Canadian high school students entering university. The award celebrates “original and creative thinkers, community leaders, and high academic achievers.”

Though it’s evident that the musical prodigy is deserving of the award, Jenkinson explained her initial shock after learning she’d gotten the scholarship. “I was so excited, and grateful for the opportunity to come to U of T. And just the opportunities that would happen as a result of winning the national scholarship.”

After accepting her scholarship and offer to attend UTM, Jenkinson was faced with another decision — deciding her program of study. However, the aspiring theatre and drama studies major explained that this was an easy task, given her love for the arts.

“I have always loved acting and performing and being on stage; it’s always felt like where I’m at home,” Jenkinson described. “I love the creative process, the people… just everything about it. I’m drawn to it.”

Jenkinson added that the combination of the program’s hands-on experience and academic education was a prominent factor in choosing her program. “I applied to [U of T] because they have a very unique program in the sense that you get the practical studio training for acting,” she described. “[You’ll get] the academic rigor and the theory and history behind your training to back you up.”

Career plans and future endeavors

Reporting outlets such as the Toronto Star, Midland Today, and Entertainment Today Canada have written about Jenkinson’s accomplishments. However, the U of T student hinted that this coverage won’t be the last time she’s featured in the news: “[I’m] definitely planning on using this as a launching point to use my music and my voice to speak about other issues as well.”