Students from two middle schools in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood learned over two days this week what opportunities await them in high school and after graduation.
The Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement, an initiative of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), arranged for students from Brookview Middle School and Oakdale Park Middle School to tour Westview Centennial Secondary School last week.
The event, called a “joint day of experiential learning,” drew about 240 students from both feeder schools. Students learned about course offerings, including technological education, at Westview.
For Treshauna Walters, a Grade 8 student at Brookview, it was an inspiring and empowering day.
“I did walk in shy due to the immense crowd of people, but I did end up liking my first class, which was auto and transportation. And I actually lifted up a tire and I’m proud of myself for that,” she said.
Educational officials said the day was designed to build a sense of community, camaraderie and belonging before students enter high school. The centre aims to improve experiences and outcomes for Black students and to be responsive to the voices of Black communities who continue to advocate for systemic change and dismantling anti-Black racism at the TDSB.
Shayle Graham, a kindergarten-to-Grade 12 learning coach at the centre, said the event was designed to expose students to specialist high skill majors at Westview through practical hands-on activities.
The students got a chance to learn about cosmetology, culinary arts, masonry, hospitality, transportation technology and robotics.
“We want to make sure that we are positioning students in a way that is affirming,” she said in an interview.
Graham said the event is good for the students, for all of the schools involved, and for Jane and Finch as a whole, which she said has a strong sense of community. It was about team building and community building, she said.
“The transition from middle to high school can be daunting for most students as they try to build new friendships and relationships,” Graham said in an email on Wednesday.
“By setting up a fun day at Westview … students will have the opportunity to get to know each other and develop a sense of familiarity with one another before their high school journey begins.”
Lindsey Marshall, also a learning coach at the centre, said the day was also an opportunity for staff and students to work collaboratively.
“I think it’s important that students know what options are out there and that is one of the big takeaways from today,” she said.
For Zayd Jihad, a Grade 8 student at Brookview, just being in the high school was a new experience.
“It’s way bigger. It has way more floors. It’s very gigantic and you can get lost literally anywhere,” he said.
He said the day was worthwhile.
“I’ve seen some of my friends, they’re really enjoying it, and I’ve seen lots of people with smiles on their face.”