York University receives $1.2M donation from RBC Foundation to support Black students

York University has received a $1.2-million donation from the RBC Foundation as part of RBC Future Launch, directly supporting the work of the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora, held by education Professor Carl James.

Jean Augustine and Carl James

This donation will create and build on James’ education initiatives for Black youth in priority areas including student success, pathways to education, and support for Black scholars.

Established in 2008, the Jean Augustine Chair is an endowed Chair established by Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to the Parliament of Canada, and champion of the unanimous vote in 1995 that saw February designated as Black History Month. The Chair is one of only two endowed university chairs in Canada dedicated to research and knowledge mobilization endeavours on Black and African-descended communities.

“My research, academic and community work has long been guided by the urgent need to support Black youth as they strive for success in the face of longstanding systemic barriers in education, and in society,” said James. “RBC Future Launch, designed to support a variety of community-centred initiatives for young people, is a deeply appreciated contribution; and I’m pleased that the work of the Chair – particularly its programs that seek to support Black youth across Canada – will benefit significantly from this generous donation.”

RBC Foundation’s $1.2-million donation will provide direct support to the Chair’s programs in four key areas, including:

  1. Hosting the first ever National Conference for Black youth in Canada.
  2. Supporting student pipeline initiatives at York and up to four other universities across Canada that will bring high school students unto university campuses, thereby enabling them to imagine themselves participating in post-secondary education.
  3. Establishing a new Canadian data hub that will strengthen research and information capacity and inform better public policy.
  4. Creating new opportunities, supports and training for young Black scholars who as graduate students and post-doctoral fellows will engage in research, teaching and mentorship activities that will serve as resources to local Black communities.

It is anticipated that up to 900 high school and university students, and postdoctoral scholars could be served through the various initiatives and serve as a pipeline for many of these youth’s post-high school ambitions. The accompanying research will serve to inform feasibility and productivity.

RBC Future Launch is a 10-year, $500-million commitment to empower Canadian youth for the jobs of tomorrow. With a focus on networking, skills development, practical work experience and mental wellbeing supports and services, the initiative aims to help break down the barriers facing young people. In 2020, RBC announced a series of actions against systemic racism – including a commitment to invest $50 million by 2025 through RBC Future Launch to create meaningful and transformative pathways to prosperity for up to 25,000 BIPOC youth with investments in areas such as skills development and mentoring.

Building on previous work, and working with all university community partners, York has re-doubled efforts to advance specific initiatives and strategies to support Black scholars, and directly address anti-Black racism. Through innovative programs, including the research and scholarly work of James, the Jean Augustine Chair, York's unique Black Canadian Studies Certificate, and the new Postdoctoral Program for Black and Indigenous Scholars, York University is putting this responsibility at the center of its teaching and research.

“York University is committed to offering a diverse student population access to a high-quality, research-intensive university committed to the social, economic, cultural and environmental well-being of society,” said Rhonda L. Lenton, York University president and vice-chancellor. “This generous donation, made possible by the RBC Foundation, will support Professor James’ trailblazing work to build pathways for Black youth to pursue their educational goals, and provide new opportunities for current and future Black scholars to drive positive change at York, across Canada, and beyond.”

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