Humber marks 50th year by recognizing distinguished alumni
May 4, 2017
The purity of the atmosphere was obvious the first day Jill Andrew entered Humber College in 1995 to pursue child & youth worker studies.
“I still remember that day,” she recalled. “It started very early in the morning with me travelling from Scarborough by bus and being terrified on what the new chapter in my life held. But as soon as I walked through those doors, I felt welcomed and I knew I was in the right place and would be happy.”
It was life a whiff of fresh air for the R.H King Academy graduate.
“Having gone through high school where often times I had teachers that didn’t necessarily recognize my potential or would question me if I got a high mark on an essay by asking if I wrote the paper or my parents did it for me wasn’t easy,” Andrew pointed out. “I still remember going into a guidance counsellor’s office and telling her that I was interested in law, medicine and maybe becoming an astronaut. Her response was that I should consider hairstyling as a career because she really loved my braids.”
That wasn’t all.
On another occasion, an English teacher pulled Andrew and three other Blacks students aside after classes and encouraged them to explore college first because he felt university would be challenging for them.
“Nothing is wrong with going to college, but why wasn’t that talk directed to the whole class and not just the Black students?’ she asked.
To mark its 50th anniversary this year, Humber College has profiled Andrew and other outstanding alumni who have attained career success and made positive contributions to their communities locally and globally.
She was also chosen as one of the college’s celebrated alumni to be on parking lot banners with portraits.
Andrew, who was bullied in high school, said the college provided her with the best and most rewarding schooling experience.
“At Humber, I was told I had a powerful voice that I should utilise and I was supported and my ideas cultivated,” she said. “There was a sense of acceptance. I left there feeling like I had developed a stronger voice. I always had an opinion, but I didn’t feel nearly as safe in high school to test the water. It was great for the college to call me back after I graduated to speak to students and inspire them to see beyond their challenges and limitations.”
In addition to being a motivational speaker, Andrew –who has a Master’s in women & gender studies and is a doctoral candidate -- and her partner Aisha Fairclough co-founded Fat in the City which is a fashion and lifestyle blog for stylish women with curves and the Body Canada Confidence Awards.
The awards program was created in 2013 to celebrate Canadian women champions of body diversity.
“I was called fat, ugly and a slut and constantly picked on because of my physical appearance,” said Andrew who was a 2016 Humber College Premier Award nominee in the community service category. “We want to recognize that we are all different and that that difference is good and should be embraced and understood.”
Had it not being for the networks that Jacqueline Edwards cultivated while enrolled in Humber College’s Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning law & security administration program in the early 1990s, she might not have risen to the top of the ladder in Correctional Services of Canada (CSC).
Gina Antonacci, the associate vice-president (academic), introduced Edwards to the Association of Black Law Enforcers who awarded her their first scholarship, and former Trinidad & Tobago police officer Frank Coburn, who was a professor in the law and security administration program, was a mentor.
“As one of the few Black professors at the time, Frank also encouraged me to stay the course because I was pregnant and in school back then,” said Edwards who is the Acting Assistant Warden Management Services at Millhaven Institution.
As a frontline community worker striving to help young people turn their lives around, City of Toronto youth development manager Jabari Lindsay credits Humber with changing his course.
“Humber was the turning point of my life as I realized my calling in the social service sector,” said Lindsay who graduated in 2001 from the social service worker program. “The professors established a professional and supportive atmosphere that encouraged me to become a social worker and help create change in others’ lives.”
A municipal employee since 2009, Lindsay designed, developed and implemented a $5 million gang prevention and intervention initiative that has helped support more than 300 young people in challenged neighborhoods.
Just seven years after graduating from Humber’s police foundations leadership program, Mark Saunders made history becoming the city’s first Black police chief and the second in Canada after Jamaican-born Devon Clunis who retired last year from the Winnipeg Police Service.
After completing a follow-up degree in justice studies at the University of Guelph-Humber, Saunders acknowledged that his education has enabled him to see criminal justice and policing in a broader context.
Though accepted by Queen’s and the University of Toronto, Jade Jager Clark chose to pursue fashion arts studies at Humber College.
“It was the only place that really spoke to my passions,” she said. “I chose to follow my heart and pursue something I really wanted to do plus Humber was the only school that combined both fashion and event co-ordination and provided a hands-on program with rapid industry access (two internships in your second year) which is what you need to establish yourself in an industry such as fashion.”
While still in college, Jager Clark opened Jade’s Hip Hop Academy that specializes in several dance genres, including hip hop, locking, popping, krump, reggae and stepping.
“Even though I transitioned full-time into entrepreneurship and dance after graduating, there were several business and creative aspects from the fashion arts program that I learned and still use today,” said the 2011 Harry Jerome Award winner. “That’s what makes this program so unique because by focusing equally on the business side of the industry, it gives so many more career options than programs just focused on design.”
With the tools and skills gained from the college’s community services program from which she graduated in 1985, Kay Blair assumed the role of executive director of Community MicroSkills Development Centre (CMDC) that served thousands of women, youth and newcomers across the Greater Toronto Area.
Migrating from Jamaica in 1976, Blair made a profound impact on the community and her dynamic leadership and entrepreneurial and innovative acumen made a lasting impression in the Greater Toronto Area.
Just months after she succumbed to cancer last September, the CDMC folded after 29 years.