June 18, 2020

Class of 2020: Mexican memories shine for charitable engineering grad

Helping people is a passion for chemical engineering's Sheliza Kassam
Sheliza Kassam
Sheliza Kassam

When you’ve already established an international charity for underprivileged children before leaving high school, it’s no surprise to find out a favourite university memory is one of helping people.

So it is for Sheliza Kassam, who graduates from chemical engineering with a long list of proud achievements behind her, including a GE Engineering Scholarship and a Rona Hatt Award through the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation.

But it was the construction of houses in Mexico, through Schulich School of Engineering’s Homes of Hope program, where Kassam built lasting memories of her undergraduate degree.

“We went to Tijuana, Mexico to build houses for a single mother and her parents, whose houses were burnt down,” recalls Kassam.

“I got the privilege to shop with the family after the houses were built, to pick up groceries, clothes and toys for the children. It was a humbling experience, being able to know that this family has a safe place to sleep, fresh groceries and proper clothing to live an active lifestyle.”

Charitable work started early

At age 16, Sheliza founded a charitable organization called Children's Birthday Miracles, dedicated to throwing monthly birthday parties for less-fortunate kids in homeless shelters and cancer wards across Canada, Kenya, Tanzania and Peru.

That earned the future engineer recognition as a Top 20 Under 20 Canada and a Women of Worth National Honouree through Loreal Paris.

For all she’s built already, Kassam is now heading into a future as an engineer-in-training at Husky Energy, while staying active in the community by volunteering with Husky Energy’s Women in Leadership network.

Professors were a key support

Looking back on her considerable academic achievements, Kassam says getting to know her professors was key to her engineering success.

“Despite the large class sizes in first year, getting to know professors can help understand the class material better and allow you to get career advice,” she says.

“In my final year, I learned how crucial it was to network with my professors to gain insights on the real world and what career paths might be best to help me grow as an engineer.”

Celebrate the engineering Class of 2020 with the Schulich School of Engineering