High-school students ponder Randal and R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Members of the Jane-Finch and York University communities visited Westview Centennial Secondary School on April 12 to announce the 2004-2005 fundraising accomplishment for the Randal Dooley Memorial Entrance Bursary, and to talk about mutual respect.

Right: Alanna Clarke, a student at York University and a 2004 graduate from Westview Centennial Secondary School, is the recipient of the Randal Dooley Memorial Entrance Bursary

Some had their eyes closed. Others leaned forward attentively, while a few whispered, “Who is Randal Dooley?” At the end of the presentation, all 400 students seated in the school cafeteria knew who the seven-year-old was, and how he tragically died.

A victim of child abuse, Dooley passed away in 1998 at the hands of his father and stepmother. In 2005, he would have been high-school aged and much like the young people in the school cafeteria, full of potential and ready to begin adult life.

To honour Dooley’s short life, members of the Jane-Finch community, rallied by resident Susie Gotha, established the Randal Dooley Memorial Entrance Bursary within York’s Faculty of Arts. The bursary encourages young people in the community to build understanding through education. “Randal never got the opportunity to have a future,” explained Gotha. “What we have tried to do with this bursary is put that opportunity into your hands.”

Each year, a community involved high-school student from the Jane-Finch area, is awarded the Dooley bursary, one of four available to members of the Jane-Finch community, to help with the cost of their first year at York. In 2004, Alanna Clarke, a Westview student, received the bursary, which helped her financially and also kept her motivated during her first year of university study.

“Receiving this funding made me feel confident because I felt like I could do anything if I put my mind to it,” said Clarke, who just completed her first year, studying business and society within the Faculty of Arts. So far, three students in total have benefited from the bursary and the endowment continues to grow.

Left: Randal Dooley’s story unfolds for the students of Westview Centennial Secondary School

This year’s cheque, presented to the York University Foundation on behalf of the Jane-Finch community and Western Union, totalled $44,000. This fundraising achievement is a result of proceeds from the T.O. Roots and Culture Festival held each Canada Day in the Jane-Finch community, funds from Western Union and matching funds from the Government of Ontario. What began with a $16,000 donation to the York University Foundation in 2002, has now reached an endowed level of $96,000.

“Randal Dooley never got the opportunity to think about his life and decide what kind of man he was going to become,” Pearson Burch-Smith, Caribbean market consultant with Western Union Canada, told the students. “This bursary creates the opportunity for you to create your life in your way while honouring Randal’s short life and unfulfilled promise. Western Union is pleased and feels privileged to give back to this worthwhile community initiative.”

dooley chque presentation

Above: From left, Constable Patrick Brown; Pearson Burch-Smith; Susan Mullin, director of development, York University Foundation; Constable Errol Dixon; Alanna Clarke; Irmgard Steinisch, associate dean, Faculty of Arts; Sgt. Chris Bullen; Constable Don Kwame Yirenkyi; and Susie Gotha

Andrea Davis, York professor in humanities and coordinator of York’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program, spoke on the topic of mutual respect. Davis told students that they were in a critical stage of life and that they were susceptible to internalizing negative messages from multiple and competing sources around images of intelligence, beauty and self-worth.

“I can’t tell you which messages to receive and which to reject,” Davis said, “but I can encourage you to take control of your own lives, to assume responsibility for each other and to build mutual respect through education.”

Students were asked to offer their own definitions of mutual respect; those who approached the microphones talked about mutual respect as “a give and take between two people”. One student said that the way to get respect is to “treat people the way you want to be treated”.

Some members of the York Region Police Force who have shown support for the bursary attended the event. Also in attendance were Carol Cabral, coordinator of the York-Westview partnership, and Margaret Martins, a teacher at Westview. Both women have worked with Westview vice-principal Icilda Elliston and principal Nancy White to bring 25 students to York University through the York-Westview partnership. This initiative builds bridges to York for high-school students in the community.

“York’s ties to Westview run deep,” said Pamela Quirk, chief development officer for the Faculty of Arts, “The York-Westview partnership within the faculties of Arts and Education integrates equity, diversity and social justice into its theory and practice. We hope many of you will consider applying for the Randal Dooley Memorial Entrance Bursary this year.”

Elliston, who was a hovering presence in the assembly hall, displayed a warm, personal connection with all the students she spoke to. Clarke also told the students that Elliston was largely responsible for her applying for the Randal Dooley Memorial Entrance Bursary.

“One of the biggest challenges I face,” Elliston said, “is actually reaching the students, especially the disadvantaged students. A lot of students love York but a number of them think it is out of their reach because of the cost and because of high academic expectations. As educators, we need to continue to instill in students: you are capable, you are just as good and you too can go to York.”

This article was submitted to YFile by Carrie Brodi, communications officer with the York University Foundation.