Circle of Care encourages, embraces future leaders
November 17, 2017
Who says young people aren’t eager to lead and shape the world?
Some are born naturally, but most require the tools and support.
Just before completing the first year of the Leadership by Design (LBD) program that will provide at least seven years of developmental support, Brianna Glanville-Forrest started a Nubian Book Club at Vaughan Secondary School where she’s a Grade 11 student.
Admitted in Grade 10, students are offered leadership and career development until they graduate with an undergraduate degree or, for those choosing to go further, a graduate degree.
“I definitely want to put into practice some of the things I have learned,” said Glanville-Forrest. “This is just the first step. I intend to pursue other leadership opportunities now I have the confidence and skills to lead.”
Meeting Mitzie Hunter, Ontario’s first Black Education Minister, for the first time also bolstered her enthusiasm to excel as a leader.
Glanville-Forrest had the honour of introducing Hunter who addressed the new and old cohort last week.
“The Minister is a trailblazer and champion for young people and a better Toronto,” she said. “She’s an inspiration.”
The students – who must be Canadian residents of Jamaican or African-Caribbean descent – meet once a month on Saturdays for a full day with subject matter experts. The meetings are held in university and corporate settings.
Hunter is quite impressed with the concept LBD is using to develop leaders and inspire leadership.
“I believe that there is no greater service to community than empowering the next generation,” she said. “I think that the vision of the LBD to inspire leadership and to develop future leaders and prepare them for leadership roles in all aspects of their lives is an innovative and unique way of addressing a problem that’s in our society. Rather than looking at the problem and talking about it, you have found an innovative way to solve the problem and I commend you for that.”
To ensure that students do well in high school and qualify for admission into a post-secondary institution, the program provides support through a teacher champion in their school, the community and their parents who are fully engaged in the process.
This collaboration has been coined ‘A Circle of Care’.
“I am very moved by the Circle of Care that’s surrounding these young people and that has dedicated themselves to support our future generation in pursuit of their dreams,” said Hunter who has been the Scarborough-Guildwood Member of Provincial Parliament since 2013. “This is a powerful combination that can play a very important role in enabling our young people to achieve their dreams. It is this kind of support that will continue to enrich and build our community for generations to come.”
A total of 33 Grade 10 students are in the second cohort.
Hunter told them that their presence demonstrates their willingness to reach greater heights.
“You are saying yes to opportunity while exploring who you are and what you will become,” she said. “You have the power to define who you will be and what you will become. That choice is not external to you. It is within you. Know your talents so that you can grow up and become the person that you imagine yourself. I encourage you to rise above all stereotypes that may be around you and rise up to high expectations that your parents, your community and everyone in this room that encircles you has for you. We have placed a lot in you, we have high hopes for you and I know you have high hopes for yourself.”
She reminded them the journey wouldn’t be easy.
“If you never give up in the face of those barriers, you will overcome them,” said Hunter. “As young Black students, I know that you are in a system that doesn’t always recognize your gifts and talents. I got that because I have walked that path. But at the same time, I know that you have that strength, determination and perseverance to overcome whatever barriers may stand in your way. As you move along your academic journey, I want you to recognize that there is a circle of support around you. I want you to reach out and into that circle anytime and everytime you have a need.”
Ursula Franklin Academy student Saskia Wills learnt about the program through her mother.
“I am happy to be among a community people of Caribbean heritage because my school population is predominantly Caucasians and Asians,” she said. “In addition to building my leadership skills, I am counting on this program helping me to learn to network and gain confidence.”
Jamaican Canadian Association president Adaoma Patterson’s son is enrolled in the program.
Simeon Patterson-Sharpe attends Chinguacousy Secondary School in Brampton.
“I work with young people in the schools and through the JCA and I see there is this gap in connecting Black students to mentors in the community,” she said. “I wanted my son to come of out his comfort zone and take advantage of this opportunity. But what I like most is that parents have to attend every session with their children. I like that model because most programs are either for one or the other. There’s a perception in our community that parents aren’t very engaged in their children’s education. This is an opportunity for us to talk about issues we are facing and to be in a space where we are hearing what our children are going through.”
Brampton Centennial Secondary School student Hannah Cowan is excited to be part of the program.
“I consider myself to be an emerging leader, having already taken on leadership roles in my church,” she said. “Through this program, I hope to gain more tools to be able to take on more leadership roles at school and in the community.”
The other cohort members are Kendra Austin, Araiyah Brandford-Richards, Raven Brooks, Nyaweh Brown, Stephan Cassie, Aaliyah Chang, Ashley Costner, Daniel Danchie, Michaela Dicks, Kimberly Douglas, Zmaurie Dunkley, Savannah Edwards, Keisha Emery, Mandisa Jacques-Saburi, Josiah Jean-Jacques, Rayvon Johnson, Jadon Lashley, Amrita LaRose, Marcus Lopez, Jholene Massy, Lee-Ann McLeod, Kaylah Mitchell, Shakina Obanda, Amen Okungbowa, Abigail Samuels, Makayla Spencer, Mercedes Stanford, Christiana Takyi, Taija Thompson, Hashi Warsame, Dominique Willis and Jaden Wong.