We are youth researchers and leaders of the Jane-Finch Bridging Education to Employment project. The majority of us are long-time residents from the Jane/Finch neighbourhood, with a diversity of lived experiences as racialised, newcomer, and low-income youth who continue to overcome challenges in our educational and employment journey.
Over the past few months, we been investigating the gaps and barriers to educational attainment and employment in our schools and community. Informed by community leaders and events, we have decided to do further research to understand how racialized (especially Black) youth in our community would envision their dream high school experience.
We want to understand how they currently value education; what kinds of best practises, community resources, and other supports have enabled them to ‘succeed’ in school; and how these might differ between youth who graduated without pause vs. those who left early, and youth with different gender and racialised identities.
Given the recent changes in education policy and funding cuts, we are also interested in how this might impact our students and our neighbourhood.
If you’re interested in participating in our project, don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to us!
Tyianna is a 21 year old student at Emery C.I.’s adult school, studying to gain her OSSD. She has been living in Jane and Finch for 15 years. She one day hopes to become a police officer, while simultaneously owning her own business. Tyianna is very skilled and beyond her training in security, she has many talents, including hair styling, dancing and playing the steel pan. She is very passionate about youth development and the trauma experienced by women in her community. She spends a lot of her time being a positive role model to her younger sisters, nieces and nephew, particularly by volunteering at their school. Additionally, she spends time volunteering at the food bank, delivering food to the various apartments, particularly those residents with accessibility constraints. What Tyianna loves most about her community is the willingness to help those in need. These community qualities have motivated her interests in the development of significant opportunities for youth and women to address their traumas, and not have their experiences be used against them in their educational and employment journey.
Fun Fact: Tyianna has been dancing since she could walk and is self-taught.
Lujayna (Lulu) Gulam
Lulu is an 18 year old Jane Finch resident, who has been living in the community for six years. She currently studies Police Foundations at Humber College and hopes to use the knowledge and experiences gained from this program to one day achieve her goal of becoming a Police Officer. Her high school teachers, current professors and all her student advisors have had a lasting impact on her and have allowed her to reach where she is today, confident to pursue her interests. Lulu also works part-time at Taco Bell and at her college as a reception assistant. She used to spent much of her time at The Spot taking part in various programming. She has also been involved in other community programs including Young Leaders group, volunteering at the Homework Club, Women’s Sports Evening, the Student Achievement program and Youth Unlimited. She absolutely loves her community and considers the friendly nature of the people to be her favourite part of living in Jane and Finch. However, due to the tremendous impact that attending various programs have had on her wellbeing, she wishes there was greater awareness about the community’s existing programs and the implementation of more after school geared programs. She strongly believes that after-school programs like Young Leaders allow youth to have impactful opportunities to gain competencies, whilst giving back to their community, in addition to having a space to have positive meetings and interactions with their peers in the community.
Fun Fact: Enjoys Asian dramas! Spent last summer binge-watching multiple Korean dramas
Nasra is a 21 year old Jane and Finch resident who has been living in the community for most of her life. She currently studies Sociology and Urban Studies at York University, and hopes to one day become an Urban Planner to diversify the profession. Nasra feels the lack of age and racial diversity are barriers to equitable knowledge development and sharing in Urban Planning as perspectives from historically underprivileged and underrepresented groups often invalidated and/or overlooked. Currently, Nasra is part of West Side Scholars, a group of post-secondary youth from the West End who come together to share their experiences, attend conferences, and facilitate workshops on mental health, financial literacy, and more.
Fun Fact: Nasra really enjoys poetry!
Abdulkadir (Moose) Nur
Abdul is 23, and has been living in Jane and Finch for practically his entire life. He is currently in his final year at York University studying Business and Society. He works two jobs in the Jane and Finch community, currently, but has been employed in his community for at least seven years. The experiences he has gained from doing community work, particularly with kids, has allowed him to become quite open-minded and to develop a willingness to unlearn what has been ascribed as “normal.” He is very passionate about mentoring and youth development and has run financial literacy workshops, recreational activities, been apart of Success Beyond Limits, Cabbage Town Youth Centre. Abdul believes that the biggest gap in high school and post-secondary education and/ employment is the lack of soft and practical skills (e.g. interpersonal, customer service, tax filing etc.) taught to youth. What he loves most about his community is the youth, and strongly believes that demonstrating consistency goes a long way in having them believe in themselves and others.
Fun Fact: Has learned that candy is a great way to engage youth in programs!
Yasmin is a committed 18 year old, first-year student at Ryerson University studying Occupational and Public Health. She has lived in the Firgrove community for all of her life. Since young, Yasmin was an active member of her community. Facilitated community engagement through, a variety of mediums, including baseline surveys, lobby intercepts and door to door knocking. She assisted in conducting meetings for youth on various topics and was the helping hand for community events like the Annual Back to School Drive and BBQ. Throughout the years, Yasmin has noticed the disconnect between the education system and her community. Yasmin first hand experienced the issues in the system and how it detrimentally affects children and their idea of “success”. Her goal is to give her community a voice, use her and the ideas of her community to make decisions that strongly influence their children and way of life.
One of our newest team members, 16 year old Dante Thomas is a Jane and Finch youth resident who has been living in the community since 2010. Dante has been an active member of his community, volunteering with the Action for Neighbourhoods Change, and participating in youth programs like Success Beyond Limits. His favourite part of the community are all the kind people, and different activities and activism that occurs in the neighbourhood. Dante is currently attending Westview Centennial, and plays Senior Varsity football with the Toronto Jets. Dante plays offensive linemen and sometimes defensive as well. He hopes to one day become a crime scene cleaner.
Fun Fact: Dante loves to read diverse books, and can be found staying up late at night reading translated Chinese fantasy novels!
Although, not a youth resident of the Jane-Finch the community, the area was like a second home to Shanice during her newcomer years. Due to her having many family members living in the area, Shanice spent most of her weekends, afterschool and holidays hanging out in Jane-Finch. She even took some of her classes at C.W. Jefferies’ night school. Furthermore, Shanice having lived and went to high school in Lawrence Heights exposed her to issues in education and employment similar to those experienced in the Jane-Finch. Currently, Shanice is a 23 year old Masters in Social Work student specializing in Mental Health & Health at the University of Toronto. Following her degree, using culturally appropriate strengths-based and trauma-informed approaches, she hopes to work to address the social determinants affecting black communities’ physical, mental and social wellbeing in the hopes of improving their psychosocial functioning and their ability to achieve positive health outcomes. Through her lived experiences, her undergraduate degree in Health Studies, practicum and volunteer work, she has amassed various knowledge and experiences and developed valuable competencies, particularly when working with the black community. Shanice strongly believes, in order to have a meaningful impact on the issues facing her community there needs to be a focus on empowerment, the consideration of critical race perspectives and intersectionality, in addition to advocacy and the disruption of historically racist systems and narratives.
Maggie is supporting the JFBEE Youth Researchers/Leaders team, and the Collective Impact strategy development through her role as the Community Development Research Assistant with Skills for Change. She has been working in Jane/Finch for nearly a year, with the neighbourhood and its brilliant, passionate, kind, and hospitable community members having become her second home and family. She really can’t stay away from the neighbourhood — on weekends, you’ll find Maggie at the Jane Finch mall on Sundays buying food for team meetings; and weeknights, sitting on various network tables around the neighbourhood supporting in note-taking. When not brainstorming youth engagement ideas, or grant-writing with other youth leaders, Maggie can be found sending emails about Collective Impact at 1:30AM in the morning, to the concerns of community partners.
Maggie is indebted to the numerous community leaders from Jane/Finch who have not only cared for her as a person, but also mentored her on best practices in community engagement. She is also grateful to the Collective Impact coaches, who have provided opportunities to shadow their work across Ontario, through Laidlaw Foundation’s Youth Leadership and Training program. She hopes to use these experiences to best support this, and other Collective Impact initiatives in Jane/Finch.
Fun Fact: This is basically Maggie’s dream job! Maggie is passionate about enabling more equitable access to wisdom, knowledge, education, and life-long learning — especially for those furthest from opportunity due to structural and systemic barriers. She genuinely believes youth participatory action research and collective impact initiatives can be transformative tools in enabling community change.