By Stephen Weir
It is a given, it never ever rains on the annual Walk of Excellence. True to form, this past Tuesday morning was bright and sunny, and the air was filled with excitement as the annual parade commenced in North Toronto.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the event, organized by the Blackhurst Cultural Centre, formerly known as A Different Booklist Cultural Centre, along with four high schools in the Jane-Finch/BlackCreek area, the York-TD Community Engagement Centre, and the Toronto District School Board. Four Black female principals (a first) led the parade, symbolizing the strength and resilience of the students as they transitioned from secondary to post-secondary education.
The event, a public demonstration of student achievement, showcased some 500 graduating high school students from Westview, Emery, Downsview, and CW Jefferys. Wearing white T-shirts perfect for autographs, they proudly marched a kilometer from CW Jefferys High School, north up Sentinel Rd, to the front doors of York University.
Along the route, the students danced to the rhythmic beats of a student drum corps. The marchers made several stops enroute to get autographs from friends, family, and police officers directing traffic. (The favorite was a handsome bike-riding cop named Officer Jessie!)
The WWE parade was not only celebrated locally but also attracted the attention of notable figures, including mayoral candidate Olivia Chow. She expressed her joy and admiration for the event, acknowledging the hard work of Itah Sadu and A Different Booklist, as well as York University, for organizing and supporting this annual rite of passage for the youth of Jane-Finch.
The parade reached its end at a York University courtyard the students took a break. The event concluded with more entertainment, a celebratory lunch and the presentation of student awards, highlighting the talents and achievements of the grads.
One of the highlights at York was the distribution of bursaries from York University, totaling thousands of dollars. Mia Mundy, a remarkable student from CW Jefferys, was awarded the largest bursary—a generous $2,000 scholarship. The announcement reinforced the parade’s message of the importance of academic achievement to open doors for future success.
At the lunch break in a campus park, the students got to enjoy the performances of their fellow peers. Alecia Roach, 17, a Grade 12 student at Downsview Secondary School, shared her story of being born to a mother in poverty, expressing hope for a brighter future. Downsview’s poet laureate read her poem, “The Empire Has Risen,” while her schoolmates cheered her on. Next? A number of student entertainment acts, including Filipino bamboo dancers, followed by five female dancers from Emery waving Caribbean flags, embracing the rich diversity of the Jane-Finch community.
The 10th Annual Walk With Excellence was a testament to the power of community collaboration and the unwavering determination of the students. As they crossed the threshold from high school to post-secondary education, these youth obviously walked in power, ready to take on whatever the future had coming for them.