By: Amanda Burnett, Communications Officer
This summer, TDSB graduates Elizabeth Agyei from SATEC @ W.A. Porter CI and Ruth Abdi from East York CI, learned about community health care through their involvement with the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP). Agyei and Abdi were given this opportunity by enrolling in the 2022 Black Student Summer Leadership Program (BSSLP). Both young women identified a passion in public health.
This leadership program is organized and led by the Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement and is supported with funding provided by Focus on Youth. It provides self-identifying Black students from Grades 10 to 12 with paid work experiences and mentorships. The program includes Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR). Black students enrolled in BSSLP work alongside a research team, including teachers, to develop their research skills and explore critical issues that impact them in schools or their community.
Black CAP works to respond to the threat of HIV and AIDS in Toronto’s African, Caribbean, and Black communities through prevention, outreach and harm reduction programming.
For Agyei, who will attend the University of Waterloo this fall for Biomedical Sciences says this placement is perfect for her because it aligns with her passion of working in the healthcare field as a doctor. It also helped her gain insight into how certain communities view the health care system.
“I have been shown practical reasons why members of the African, Caribbean, or Black communities may hesitate to go to the regular health care system for help. I have also learned tools and strategies we can use to reach these communities and give them the support they need,” says Agyei.
“We also work with refugees and people from the LGBTQ+ communities. Sometimes these communities may not feel comfortable going to certain health care institutions due to past histories and traumas or they feel they do not have the same access to health care as other Canadians. Black CAP provides resources and access to services without folks feeling stigmatized or oppressed.”
Image of Elizabeth Agyei
Her classmate Abdi, who starts her undergraduate journey at the University of Toronto this fall for Life Sciences, found this placement valuable because she gained transferable skills in outreach, research and program planning.
Throughout this experience, both students worked very closely with Youth Outreach Worker Lucia Ejidke.
“What stood out to me is Lucia is very patient and supports us. She encourages us to go around the office and connect with our colleagues to learn more about the different professions that make this organization successful,” says Abdi.
Image of Ruth Abdi
During their summer work placement, Agyei and Abdi were able to conduct research, explore which key experiences youth would be interested in and how to engage them. They searched for individuals who could be a good fit as a speaker or mentor for upcoming programming, conducted meetings, assembled resource packages and participated in community outreach at a local beach. Agyei and Abdi are currently in the middle of organizing the Youth Professional Mentorship Conference for African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) youth community members and are working on the promotional campaign.
The executive director, Gareth Henry of Black Cap, spoke highly of both students and says it was a great opportunity not only for them but for the Black CAP organization as well.
“Black CAP was very fortunate to have Ruth and Elizabeth as our summer placement students from the TDSB. Both students had an undeniable willingness to learn from, and work with, a Black social service organization like Black CAP,” said Henry in an email.
“The placement of these two powerful and articulate future leaders at Black CAP, an organization that I believe truly reflects the diversity of our Black community, is an invaluable experience. It demonstrates that should the TDSB continue to be intentional in supporting youth in their learning and valuing their diverse identities and cultures, we will have that better tomorrow we all hope for.”