Monday, October 12, 2009

Scarborough Youth Come to Believe in HYPE

Choosing to sacrifice some summer fun for an educational future, 147 local youth joined Centennial's award-winning HYPE (Helping Youth Pursue Education) program this year to sample a rich learning experience at no cost to them.

The youth, aged 13 to 29, primarily from the Scarborough neighborhoods of Malvern, Kingston-Galloway and Scarborough Village, participated in six career-oriented courses - in automobile repair, food services, child studies, office administration, business entrepreneurship and esthetics - over the past six weeks.

The HYPE Class of 2009 was recognized at a special graduation ceremony at the Progress Campus Student Centre on August 13. The students heard some inspiring words from keynote speaker Nation Cheong of the Youth Challenge Fund, as well as from valedictorian Sheldon Blackbourne.

"I learned to smile here," Sheldon was quoted as saying in a Toronto Sun article. "I didn't understand the importance of education and finishing school. Fortunately, I've found many options through the HYPE program." Having sampled the college experience this summer, Sheldon plans to enroll in Centennial's
Child and Youth Worker program this fall and become a social worker.

For some, participating in the program is the first positive school experience they've had in a long time. The initiative is rooted in Toronto Mayor David Miller's Community Safety Plan, designed to bring programming to youth living in under-serviced neighborhoods of the city. Centennial worked with local community service agencies to identify youth who could benefit from the career programming. Now in its sixth year, HYPE also received a lot of positive word-of-mouth from local residents, which helped generate 220 applications for this year's intake.

Thanks to a large grant - $450,000 over three years - from Michael Clemons' Youth Challenge Fund, the students were provided with free transportation, textbooks, breakfast and lunch. A generous grant from TD Bank Financial Group allowed HYPE to expand this year to include more participants and mentors, as well as additional training opportunities.

Students developed individual portfolios that included certification earned in personal and skill development workshops, such as "financial literacy," presented by volunteer staff from TD Canada Trust. Participants also took part in a variety of social events.

The college has expanded its bursary program, awarding each of 40 HYPE participants with a $1,500 bursary when they enroll in full-time studies at Centennial this fall. Last year's bursary winners will receive $1,000 each to commence the second year of their programs. HYPE is managed by Tony Granato and overseen by Tony Bertin, Manager, Community Outreach Office, of the Student and Community Engagement division.

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