By Stephen Weir
North Toronto students got the online surprise of their lives last Thursday while watching a live YouTube broadcast of the annual graduation Walk of Excellence.
Not only did community leaders, entertainers and family members take part in the two-hour social media presentation. So too did the Prime Minister of Canada and the Mayor of Toronto.
In past years, Grade 12 students graduating from area high schools – Emery, Downsview, Westview, CW Jeffreys and James Cardinal McGuigan – have taken the Walk of Excellence from their schools to a grad party put on by York University.
This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only a small group of pan players were actually on the March while students from kindergarten to grade 12 took part on-line.
The broadcast was a mix of live footage from musicians performing on Finch Avenue West and Jane Street, to taped messages and live student posts. It was carried on YouTube, Zoom, Snap Chat, and Facebook, with Walk
organizer and co-owner of the A Different Book List, Itah Sadu, handling Master of Ceremony duties live in a Yorkgate Mall hub studio.
As the event was winding down, Sadu announced that their mystery guest, a Mr. JT, wanted to speak to the students. The broadcast then cut to Ottawa where a bearded Prime Minister Trudeau stood outside in front of his official residence.
Speaking in both English and French and occasionally flipping his long black hair, Trudeau talked about Toronto’s Jane Finch community.
“Your community, he said, ” has always pulled up to show that they have your back,” said the Prime Minister. “What once started as a walk from Jane and Finch to York University has now been repeated in Scarborough and in Ottawa. This is the strength of your community and that is special.”
“As you move on to the next phase of your life, take heart in knowing that you come from a community that will always stand by you. We know you have the leadership capability and the courage to make change happen.”
“Recognize that today marks the realization of your dreams. Remember that nothing can take this moment away from you, not even a global pandemic.”
Strength. family and community were the themes of many of the guest speakers, including the mayor, teachers, longtime Jane Finch activist Winston, La Rose, and the staff of the Black Creek Community Health Centre.