Get­ting youth HYPEd about school

Toronto Sun - - CONTINUING EDUCATION - LINDA WHITE Spe­cial to Post­media Net­work

For most of her life, Marie Joseph never imag­ined she’d one day earn a post-sec­ondary diploma or de­gree. That all changed in just six weeks thanks to a free pro­gram for youth liv­ing in Toronto’s un­der­served neigh­bour­hoods that re­duces bar­ri­ers to ed­u­ca­tion.

“When I was younger, I never thought col­lege or uni­ver­sity was for me be­cause I’m a stu­dent with dis­abil­i­ties and school was re­ally hard,” says Joseph. She com­pleted high school in the U.S. and came to Canada in 2008 as a Haitian refugee. “Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with teach­ers was never easy.”

A tu­ition-free pro­gram of­fered each sum­mer by Cen­ten­nial Col­lege changed that. HYPE – Help­ing Youth Pur­sue Ed­u­ca­tion – of­fers stu­dents ages 17 to 29 years to take ca­reer-ori­ented cour­ses in busi­ness fun­da­men­tals, hu­man de­vel­op­ment, au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy, es­thet­ics, trades/com­put­ers/tech­nol­ogy, dig­i­tal me­dia or culi­nary arts.

Joseph was among the onethird of HYPE grad­u­ates who go on to pur­sue full-time stud­ies at col­lege. Af­ter study­ing graphic arts at Cen­ten­nial, she landed a job in the col­lege’s mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­part­ment. “It was a dif­fer­ent path to col­lege and my life changed from there,” she says.

“The pro­gram is de­signed to re­duce as many bar­ri­ers as pos­si­ble to an on-cam­pus post-sec­ondary learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” says An­thony Bertin, man­ager of Cen­ten­nial’s Com­mu­nity Out­reach Of­fice. In ad­di­tion to be­ing tu­ition free, it pro­vides stu­dents with to­kens for trans­porta­tion, break­fast, lunch and re­quired learn­ing ma­te­ri­als, such as safety boots and gog­gles for au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy stu­dents.

“Many of our stu­dents don’t have a high school diploma or if they do, they wouldn’t be el­i­gi­ble for post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion be­cause their grades wouldn’t pro­mote it,” he says. “Many had ex­pe­ri­ences in ele­men­tary and sec­ondary school that left them be­liev­ing they weren’t ca­pa­ble learn­ers or that school is a hor­ri­ble place to be and they’d rather not be there.”

The pro­gram also of­fers mo­ti­va­tional speak­ers and work­shops on top­ics like fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy. Par­tic­i­pants can take ad­van­tage of HYPE Works, which of­fers ev­ery­thing from mock in­ter­views to Smart Serve and other cre­den­tial­ing work­shops. A vol­un­tary aca­demic prepa­ra­tion course for stu­dents con­sid­er­ing full-time stud­ies cov­ers es­sen­tial soft skills like aca­demic read­ing and writ­ing.

Pe­drae Cam­mock, 25, grad­u­ated from HYPE in Au­gust. Af­ter study­ing hu­man de­vel­op­ment, she de­cided to pur­sue health and fit­ness at Cen­ten­nial. “It was very in­spi­ra­tional and the amount of help I re­ceived makes me want to cry,” she says. “They helped me ap­ply for school and even helped me fill out my (On­tario Stu­dent As­sis­tance Pro­gram) ap­pli­ca­tion.”

Cen­ten­nial’s com­mu­nity out­reach co­or­di­na­tors fo­cus on youth from un­der­served neigh­bour­hoods, women in non-tra­di­tional ca­reers – which in­cludes women liv­ing in poverty who are sole sup­port par­ents and view ed­u­ca­tion as non-tra­di­tional – and mem­bers of the In­dige­nous com­mu­nity.

“We talk about de­vel­op­ing a cul­ture of pos­si­bil­ity,” Bertin says. “Many don’t see the pos­si­bil­ity of post­sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion for them­selves and don’t see what ed­u­ca­tion can of­fer them in terms of im­proved life­style, a sus­tain­able life­style that can as­sist them in car­ing for their fam­i­lies. What we’re re­ally look­ing to do is not just pro­vide an ed­u­ca­tion but give our youth an op­por­tu­nity to trans­form their view of who they can be.”

SUB­MIT­TED IM­AGES

Upon suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of Cen­ten­nial Col­lege’s HYPE pro­gram, stu­dents earn a cer­tifi­cate of recog­ni­tion and take part in a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony.

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