Atkinson alumnus receives YMCA Peace Medallion

Ron Cunningham wasn’t looking for a medal – he just wanted to do something to help inner city kids in his native Jamaica and keep himself busy while he looked for ways to continue his career as an accountant in Canada. But the York alumnus (BA ’00, BAS ’96) got one anyway at a ceremony held by the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

Ron CunninghamCunningham set up his own consulting company, Citizens for the Advancement of Community Development, as a way of implementing some of the theories he learned studying for an economics degree in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. And, as most employment search experts will tell you, volunteering is a great way to network.

Right: Ron Cunningham with his YMCA Peace Medallion

His project took him to his home country twice in the past year: in April to set up training courses in life skills and policing as a career and again in July for healthy school community initiative. Before that, Cunningham helped set up a training centre to teach sewing skills and another to teach computer skills, negotiating with Jamaica’s HEART TrustNational Training Agency to make them extensions of their national program.

He’s the first to admit the project has become a full-time pre-occupation, one that he and his wife Sonia have financed largely on their own and is keeping him from his career search. While he says he plans to focus more on his personal career priorities in the coming months, the awards ceremony Cunningham attended in Mississauga on Nov. 24 might keep him busy with his project a little longer – that was the night he received a 2005 YMCA Peace Medallion, awarded to mark the Canadian Y’s International Peace Week, Nov. 16-19, 2005.

In addition to his work in Jamaica, Cunningham said he plans to offer similar courses here in Canada to help inner city youth who are struggling with the same challenges of alienation and a lack of purpose and direction.

In his trips home, Cunningham has taken correctional services officers with him to talk about linking local government with community police divisions and policing as a career option. He is also trying to implement a healthy schools project in both countries, where he hopes to address issues such as HIV-AIDS awareness and green schools.

“Peace has many dimensions,” Jackson said in an interview with his local newspaper. “The responsibility for peace begins with each person, in relationship with family and friends and extends to community life and national activity There are not simple recipes. It is we ourselves, who must seek, act, pray for ways to be peacemakers.”