Students from York University and Seneca@York, with students from two local high schools – Emery Collegiate Institute and C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute – will share on Tuesday the lessons they learned and results achieved from eight unique projects that promote social justice in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood as part of their year-end wrap up “Burn! Lighting Fires for Social Justice and Social Change”.
The New Opportunities for Innovative Student Engagement (NOISE) project, through York University’s School of Social Work, brings social work students together with high-school students to design and carry out social action projects that respond to key issues in the Jane-Finch community. These social action opportunities differ from traditional experiential education/service learning projects in which students are seen as the “volunteers” and youth as “recipients”. NOISE, which was initiated two years ago through York’s Academic Innovation Fund, recognizes that youth and social work students mutually benefit from the experience of working together and the relationships that are established.
At the Tuesday event, students representing the eight projects undertaken this year will make short presentations about their social action projects and reflect on what they learned about social justice and social change. Toronto’s Vital Signs report by the Toronto Community Foundation, helped the students to focus their efforts on areas of greatest needs.
The keynote speaker will be Chelsea Jane Edwards, a youth from Attawapiskat First Nation, who co-founded Shannen’s Dream, a campaign for safe, comfortable schools and equitable education on reserves across Canada.
Ward 8 York West Councillor Anthony Perruzza will offer opening remarks and former MP Olivia Chow, a mayoral candidate for Toronto who was Toronto’s first Child and Youth Advocate, will make closing remarks at the event.
One of the eight pods of students in the NOISE project not only created care packages for people in need, but included resources on free and inexpensive meals throughout the City of Toronto and took part in workshops that were open to other social work students to explore community needs and supports.
Another pod used social media including Facebook & Twitter accounts to respond to the violence of low expectations research finding by York’s ACT for Youth Project that showed that one of the impacts of the negative stereotyping of the Jane-Finch community is that youth may no longer be challenged or given the opportunity to expand their ideas of what is possible for them to do with their lives, thereby creating a sense of scriptedness around their futures. This pod explored how the poor condition of their high schools is linked to such low expectations.
Burn! Lighting Fires for Social Justice and Social Change will take place April 22 from 4:30 to 7:30pm in The Underground Restaurant located in the Student Centre on York’s Keele campus.