How UTSC Captured The Essence of Community

We often hear the word “community” being thrown around. So much so, the meaning often gets overlooked. But community is more than just a word, it’s an experience. One that the city of Scarborough is so deeply connected with. The experience of community is unique to everyone, but in Scarborough, community is felt. It’s felt through our intertwining cultures, in our ability to lean on each other for support, and through our relentless desire to collaborate and create special moments. UTSC and Scarborough are beautiful melting pots - and that’s exactly what makes us exceptional.

It’s been shown time and time again, that when people work together as a community, the end result is something great. This was seen earlier this month when a new project was unveiled on the UTSC campus. This project was the creation of a new student space designed especially for the Scarborough community, a space that allows us to intermix and let loose. UTSC strives to not only be a place for academic and inclusive excellence, but a place where students can make their post secondary years unforgettable.

Students playing foosball at University of Toronto Scarborough

It all started with Mathooshan, the Vice President of Operations for the Scarborough Campus Student Union (SCSU), who, during a walk through the Student Centre with UTSC Dean of Student Experience and Wellbeing Neel Joshi, noticed an empty space on the lower level. He knew there was something missing. There was a void, both in a physical space, but also in a need that students were craving.

Mathooshan and Neel Joshi posing in front of East End Scarborough mural
From left to right: Mathooshan (Vice Principal of Operations, SCSU) and Neel Joshi (UTSC Dean of Student Experience & Wellbeing)

After countless conversations with students and peers, Mathooshan figured it out - UTSC needed a space where students could come together outside of the classroom and decompress; a space where community and creativity can intersect, and socialization can flourish. For many, UTSC is their second home - and so for Mathooshan and Neel, this was a no-brainer. But it didn’t stop there.

“Neel immediately connected me with people in the community. That’s how the ball got rolling so fast.”

Of these community members were Scarborough Shooting Stars co-founder, Sam Ibrahim; founder of Scarborough Spots, Jesse Asido; and DuroTheThird, a prolific Scarborough artist responsible for many of the murals we see around the city. What Mathooshan soon realized, is these three shared a mutual love for community, our city, and what this space represented.

Gallery of Sam Ibrahim, Jesse Asido, and DuroTheThird and Mathooshan
From left to right: Sam Ibrahim, Jesse Asido, Mathooshan and DuroTheThird

“We really leveraged the fact that we are based on community.”

Mathooshan said, “It was so organic and everyone was so willing. If I had to reach out to anyone else, I don't think the project would’ve happened so fast. And so well.” Mathooshan’s ability to convey his vision, and express how valuable a space like this would be for the Scarborough community, is what turned everything into fruition.

Artist DuroTheThird explains the meaning behind his mural

A monumental part of the space’s identity is the hand crafted mural that was designed and created by DuroTheThird. What better way to capture the essence of Scarborough than to collaborate with someone who has continuously expressed his pride and support for the city through his work. As someone who grew up in Scarborough, this mural was created from the love and passion Duro holds for the people in the community. “My parents came here with nothing and Scarborough gave them everything, so it's my duty to give back.”, says Duro. From as young as 10 years old, DuroTheThird was encapsulated by the world of art. He attended various art schools growing up; but it was that, plus the inspiration he got from his cousin, that fueled his passion and drove him to become the best at what he does over the past few decades.

Creator of Scarborough Spots Jesse Asido plays table tennis

Jesse Asido, the creator of Scarborough Spots, was another key collaborator. Around mid 2020, Jesse created this company to celebrate Scarborough and everything it has to offer. Scarborough Spots, known to many as the Real Guide to the East Side, does well in highlighting both the hidden gems around the city, but also the spots that bring us all together. It showcases the beauty found in what others might consider the mundane. But Jesse not only encourages people to take pride in the city, he reminds us just how influential we’ve been to the rest of the world.

Scarborough Shooting Stars co-founder Sam Ibrahim talking with students from the University of Toronto Scarborough
Neel Joshi and Sam Ibrahim exchanging a handshake

Sam Ibrahim is no stranger to influence, having dedicated his career to uplifting and inspiring youth in inner cities through the sport of basketball. Having grown up in Scarborough, and even attending UTSC himself as a student; Sam knew this was a city and campus he wanted to make an impact for. Being responsible for the first basketball facility in Scarborough, Sam envisioned a place where youth could come together in a sport they loved – but also provide them with opportunities for employment. Sam knew the potential that Scarborough offered and wanted to make sure the rest of the city knew as well. His career path soon led him to become the co-founder of the Scarborough Shooting Stars, which helped further put Scarborough on the map and reminded everyone that our city, and the people in it, are capable of great things.

Without that shared passion from Mathooshan, Neel, Sam, Jesse and Duro, this space wouldn’t exist. But it’s so much more than that. As Sam puts it, “everything we’re seeing in Scarborough, represents what’s possible.” Whether it’s the Scarborough Shooting Stars, or a larger than life mural at STC - nothing great happens when we work alone. It takes a village. It takes a team. It takes a community. And that’s what UTSC, and this space represents.


Captured through the lenses of OSEW photographer Marc Alolod
Written by Chasya Williams