In late July and early August, the School of Social Work welcomed 40 students from the Jane and Finch and greater Black Creek communities to York University’s Keele campus for the launch of an exciting new pilot project called “New Opportunities for Innovative Student Engagement”, known as “NOISE”.
NOISE is an initiative made possible with support from the University’s Academic Innovation Fund. It offers the high-school students an engaged learning initiative that will see them working with current York social work students and Master of Social Work grads in project teams or “community action pods”. From September to December, each pod will learn about an issue that is important to communities in the city of Toronto. They will then devise a project to address the issue. From January to April, the pods will engage in reflective, hands-on, social action projects within the Jane and Finch community.
NOISE is informed by research findings from another community-University research initiative focused on urban youth known as the Assets Coming Together (ACT) for Youth project and using as a case study the Jane and Finch community. York Professor Uzo Anucha (left) , graduate program director in the School of Social Work in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional studies, is both the principal investigator for ACT for Youth and the project lead for NOISE. The research findings revealed that young people who participate in engaged learning initiatives like NOISE learn to connect the knowledge they receive in the classroom to community action. They experience better academic results and increased enjoyment of learning, which in turn makes them more likely to pursue postsecondary opportunities.
NOISE participants from Grades 9 and 12 at Emery Collegiate Institute along with their families visited York University on July 26 for an orientation event. Professor Narda Razack, associate dean in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, welcomed the group to the University. The students then had an opportunity to meet one another and members of the NOISE project team. Many of the youth said the orientation was their first experience on the University’s Keele campus.
Talisha Ramsaroop, a third-year York undergraduate student who was previously involved with the ACT for Youth project, is now taking on an active role in NOISE and recruited many of the high school participants. Ramsaroop together with Henry Appiah, a second-year York undergraduate student, are youth assistants with NOISE.
The pair took a leadership role in organizing a Summer Learning Retreat for NOISE students on Aug. 9, 10, 16 and 17. The four-day retreat provided the high-school students with sessions on leadership, quantitative and qualitative research methods, active listening, facilitation, public speaking, online communication, arts-based research and critical media literacy. The youth also enjoyed a campus-wide scavenger hunt, a poetry-writing workshop and participated in daily reflective exercises.
“The Summer Learning Retreat helped the students get to know one another and become more familiar with York University,” explained Ramsaroop. “Together, we explored issues of identity, community and communication, and learned about community-based research and what it means to engage in reflective action.”
NOISE celebrates its official launch at an event on Thursday, Sept. 27 at the Keele campus. Rahul Bhardwaj, president & CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation, will give the keynote address.
For more information, visit the NOISE for Social Change Facebook page or the Assets Coming Together (ACT) for Youth project website.
Photographs courtesy of Buruk Kebedom and Artem Krivochei.