Skills for Change award presentation photo | 2017-12-19

York U partnership with Jane-Finch community empowers young people

A new partnership between York University and Skills for Change is helping to empower young people through the Jane-Finch Community Impact Hub.

Skills for Change is an agency providing learning and training opportunities for immigrants and refugees to access and fully participate in the workplace and wider community.

Through this partnership with the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (LA&PS), the hub offered a 12-week training program on leadership and creativity to youth, ages 18 to 29, in the Jane and Finch neighborhood who desire to create their own social innovation plans and make positive changes to their community.

Group photo of the cohort

Skills for Change has served those who live in Toronto for 30 years and offers a range of accelerated programs to fit the needs of people arriving in the city from all parts of the world, some of which are geared toward community building and developing leadership skills. The programs are designed to fit community needs and address issues that community members face.

“I truly enjoyed the opportunity of participating in the event and listening to such young people as they reflected on the meaning of social justice and spoke of creative ways of supporting their community,” said Economics Professor Ida Ferrara, who served as one of the judges in the partnership. “The positive energy from the presentations was powerful and inspiring, as was the strong commitment to social innovation that motivated the projects and transpired during the presentations.”

The program, which began in June and held its graduation ceremony in mid-fall, included a set of train-the-trainer modules and community development exercises that would prepare participants to create and lead social innovation initiatives in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood. The goal of the program was primarily to provide aspiring youth leaders with comprehensive leadership and social innovation training, community development experiences and seed funding opportunities to start up their own social initiatives in the Jane and Finch community. Participants received a certificate upon completion of the program.

Upon their graduation, participants pitched their developed social innovation plans at York University’s Senate Chamber to an audience of their peers, parents, project mentors, program facilitators and community members. The initiatives included organizing an after-school homework club in collaboration with the local community church, mentorship programs with a focus on pursuing post-secondary education, financial literacy and money management workshops, an empowerment club for women and girls, and much more. Three winners were awarded monetary incentives to start up their grass-root projects and initiatives.

First place winner Troy Budhu, Professor Ida Ferrera, John Farrugia (MoneyGram Foundation) and Sampada Kukade (Skills for Change)

The participants, some of whom are York students in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, are actively making significant changes in the community. For those who grew up in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood, the initiatives are their way of giving back to the community.

In their presentations, all the participants mentioned the stigmas often attached to the Jane and Finch community. Jane-Finch has one of the highest youth populations in Toronto and the highest unemployment rate, among other issues. The participants are committed to denouncing these stigmas to highlight the strengths and potentials that are rich in the community.

Skills for Change aims to fulfill its goal of tackling issues in the Jane-Finch community by training youth to be leaders for their community and neighborhood.