With a $178,000 federal grant received this year from Employment & Social Development Canada (ESDC), the York University TD Community Engagement Centre (CEC) has funded new youth-led projects in the Jane-Finch and Black Creek community.
Since 2014, the CEC’s mandate has been to support York’s commitment to build a more engaged university by fostering collaborations between the University and the Black Creek community. Through its Catalyst Grants program, over the past decade the CEC has awarded over $150,000 in university-community partnership projects promoting access to post-secondary education, supporting community-based research and creating experiential education opportunities for students through its Catalyst Grants program.
The recent ESDC grant allowed CEC to offer Catalyst Grants in a different way. “With this special offering of the grant, we are excited to focus specifically on youth-led projects from the Jane-Finch and Black Creek community,” said Anda Petro, community projects co-ordinator at CEC. “We received numerous excellent applications from youth aged 15 to 30 for projects that demonstrated community benefit, and ultimately selected 12 projects to be funded.”
Among them are projects like a computer literacy program for seniors, a project helping youth grow indoor edible gardens, an interview/film project capturing experiences of youth in the community, and a workshop to help entrepreneurs and creatives to develop podcasts.
Petro noted that some of the selected projects are led by current or past York students who are from the community. For example, Abigail Dunbar is a first-year dance student (bachelor of fine arts) who received a grant for her project called “Inspiring Community Dance Connections,” which will bring her passion for dance to youth within the community. “This program will not only teach them dance but my hope is that it will also help them to form a second family in the community, teach discipline and help them to develop their own way of self expression,” said Dunbar.
Dunbar’s ambitions reflect CEC’s own hopes for the funded initiatives. “Not only do the projects support youth leadership and development, but they also directly benefit the broader community,” said Petro.
Administering the grants, the CEC provides continuous support and training opportunities for the youth grant recipients, fostering connections between the community and the University. Recently, the CEC organized a professional development and networking event, enabling young project leaders to refine skills like program evaluation while strengthening their connections.
Byron Gray, manager of the CEC, highlighted the centre’s unique position in bridging the university-community gap. “As a bridge between the University and the community, the CEC plays a pivotal role in advancing York University’s position as an anchor institution,” Gray remarked. “Initiatives like this showcase the tremendous impact we can achieve by supporting the remarkable talent within the community. Through this and other funding opportunities, we hope to grow this program and continue to support even more of these impactful youth-led projects in the Jane-Finch community in the coming years.”