U of T Scarborough recognizes its historical roots in settler colonialism that has led to the underrepresentation and retention of Black and Indigenous students in post-secondary education, as well as those with low socioeconomic status, disabilities, LGBTQ2S+ and rural communities.
We work towards addressing systemic barriers faced by these communities by intentionally creating cultural appropriate resources and programs that increase access for formal and informal Post-Secondary Education experiences.
Click through to see some of our recent intiatives...
In partnership with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Elementary, Learning Centre 3 School Guidance Counselors, U of T Scarborough hosted three experiential learning days for over 70 Black and Indigenous grade 7 & 8 students. This experience assisted in broadening their perceptions and experiences with post-secondary institutions. In a debriefing meeting, we discussed the importance of hosting a session for parents/guardians as they play an integral role in supporting students’ educational journeys.
In June 2019, we hosted an informative evening focussing on pathways to high school, post-secondary education and trades with over 90 local parents/guardians of the experiential learning participants. The evening commenced with informal networking over dinner, followed by a keynote address by Anthony Morgan, Manager, Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, City of Toronto and Training and Development Consultant, an interactive panel discussion, academic advising and financial aid supports.
We continue to support our grade 7 & 8 students by offering many resources and support in their community. Our commitment to supporting access initiatives allows us to intentionally design curriculum, content and resources that are culturally appropriate and relevant for each target group.
In both informal and formal conversations, underrepresented people from the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) communities expressed their strong sentiment regarding post-secondary education; specifically universities not being a place where they can thrive, feel represented in the student and faculty communities and have engaging learning experiences.
Alongside community stakeholders and programs supporting underrepresented children and youth such as the Toronto AKA program her L.I.F.E. (Lived, Inspired, Fearless, Experience) program, the Canadian Training Institute (CTI), Strong Academy and TDSB elementary schools, we facilitated culturally appropriate and relevant interactive student programming for over 100 young people. “Day in the Life” programing highlights aspects of the undergrad experience while integrating experiential learning with community experts, students and staff engagement. Activities included makerspace sessions, vermicomposting workshops, success stories sessions, spoken word activities, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) circuits and fitness challenges.
The continued success of the “Day in the Life Program” can be credited to the collective effort to encourage agency in the participants as we use their voices and experiences to increase our programming. We are grateful for the internal support from various departments like Admission and Recruitment, Office of Student Experience & Wellbeing, Academic Advising & Career Centre, Athletics and Recreation, Culinaria, Imani Academic Mentorship Program, Move U and Let’s Talk Science.
Honourable mention to all our knowledgeable and engaging community facilitators: Nuit Blanche Curator, Ashley McKenzie-Barnes; Founder of RISE Edutainment and Spoken word artist, Randell Adjei; STEM enthusiast, Abi Tairu; Physiotherapist, Dr. Joel Kerr; Body By Chosen Co-founder, Sean Maingot; and Spoken word artist, David Delicia.
Rimsha Rahman, U of T Scarborough Work-Study Student
As a UTSC student, I’ve had the privilege to grow into a student leader on campus. However, there was a time where I couldn’t envision myself as a student leader. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to share my experiences with the CTI cohort as to when I first started my academic journey at UTSC as I had also once been in their shoes. It’s daunting to make big decisions such as pursuing post-secondary education.
In response to a fatal shooting in the community, the Community Partnership & Engagement Department reached out to local community organizations to offer support toward action against violence and to support community healing.
The City of Toronto’s Crisis Response Unit responded with opportunities to support community led events funded by the Crisis Response Community Fund. In support of collective action through the interests of local youth, U of T Scarborough hosted the Tamil Dance event in August 2019 and the Brenden Bowler and Jaydin Simpson Community Basketball Tournament at the Pan Am Centre in October 2019. With over 300 collective participants both events supported local youth and families to celebrate community solidarity and restoration through arts and sports-based outlets.
Working closely together across institutions, the City’s Crisis Response Team and the Community Partnership and Engagement department have started meeting to discuss broader opportunities to support each other. In more recent conversations, the city has reopened the Danzig Community Hub and has reached out to U of T Scarborough to explore student tutoring opportunities.
Rene Ritchie, Community Member
It turned out to be a great day in honour of the boys [who lost their lives to senseless violence last year]… Basketball was a big part in both the boys lives and it was nice being able to honour them with something they loved. My son has played for years on school teams… I know he was smiling down on us that day.
The TDSB Walk of Excellence was designed to celebrate students’ success transitioning from high school to postsecondary education. With the desire to maintain participant engagement the TDSB shared participants’ feedback with U of T Scarborough and invited Centennial College to be involved in the Third Annual Walk of Excellence.
On May 2nd, 2019, the ceremonial celebrations began at West Hill Collegiate Institute to Centennial College then concluded at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus all while showcasing student pride, talents and accomplishments. This year, students were welcomed on campus by members of the executive team and staff. Festivities included keynote speakers, a photo booth, team building activities hosted by MOVEU (a U of T Scarborough student group that aims to encourage and assist students in welcoming physical activity into their lifestyle), and a DJ with music.
Reflecting the values of our strategic plan’s focus on inspiring inclusive excellence, we are happy to continue to build on the success of previous years. The ceremonial walk is more than a symbolic day. It is an opportunity to create untraditional ways for the local community to see themselves in space, access university resources such as admission and recruitment, and develop student and staff relationships.
In the fall 2018, TAIBU Community Health Centre, Toronto AKA, the Boys & Girls Club of East Scarborough and the University of Toronto Scarborough were discussing a collaboration on a grant related to health. During that conversation, Utcha Sawyers, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of East Scarborough brought to the group’s attention the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti Black Racism Unit’s funding opportunity to raise the governance and leadership capacity of Black Torontonians. The group of collaborators engaged in a lively discussion and agreed to a multi-agency approach to addressing this priority.
In January 2019, the City of Toronto announced TAIBU Community Health Centre (TAIBU) as the successful grantee for its Black Leadership Governance Training Project Grant. TAIBU with partners East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, Toronto AKA and the University of Toronto Scarborough worked to develop and implement a Black governance and leadership initiative to increase the representation of Black Torontonians on the boards of health and social service organizations.
During the first two phases of the project, the University of Toronto Scarborough has served as a partner on this important initiative by providing mentors to grassroots organizations and community members, staff support, consultation and in-kind venue and meeting space. The University will be joining forces with the Eastern GTA anchor institutions to roll out phase three of the BGLP.
Mayor John Tory, City of Toronto (Press Release, January 2019)
The Black Leadership Governance Training Project Grant addresses a specific action item in our Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism. It’s encouraging to see parts of the action plan come to fruition with the allocation of this grant to TAIBU [and partners] and what they will accomplish by supporting diverse Black Torontonians for leadership and governance roles in health and community organizations.
Acquire Career Connections, Employability Skills and Support (ACCESS) started with conversations with students who identified as having barriers to employment, especially around lacking exposure to possible places of work. It is difficult to make career decisions about where you might like to work in the future if you haven't had the chance to observe any of these places as well as hot having relevant experience.
This program connected with about 35 students with workplaces of interest in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, most recently with the Scarborough General Hospital. Eight students spent four hours each at the hospital and visited the following departments – Diagnostics, Spiritual Care Centre, Hospital Foundation and Patient Registration. To add to their understanding of this workplace and to build valuable resume skills, students completed projects on the following topics: healthcare by demographics; healthcare and spiritual/psychological wellbeing; improving health literacy; and a budgetary analysis.
Due to COVID-19, all workplace visits are on hold however we look forward to working with community partners again when it is safe to do so, to continue to expand students’ horizons on where and how they could employ their knowledge and skills in their future work.
Previous cohorts of U of T students said that they valued…
Getting personal stories and experiences from members of hospital staff so I could align my own next moves accordingly
Visiting SHN and getting the opportunity to do a behind the scenes look into what goes on at SHN.
This program provided me with an open access which is deepened the understanding of diversity, interconnectedness within multicultural communities, and I learned how to thrive in a global landscape for tackling the complicated challenges in my future career related to healthcare.