Authors: Tanitia Munroe, Shawnee Hardware Ph.D., Entisar Yusuf and Sewsen Igbu
The Centre of Excellence for Black Student Achievement at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) designed and delivered its third annual Black Student Summer Leadership Program (BSSLP) in July 2021. The BSSLP is a unique program that offers leadership training and paid work experiences for self-identified Black students in secondary schools across the TDSB. The five-week program brought together 85 Black students and community partners and provided students with experiential learning opportunities in various career fields. The primary aim of the BSSLP was to support the development of Black students’ leadership skills and enhance their knowledge about various careers or industries that often see less people represented from Black communities. These professions include business, media and creative industries, technology and trades, information technology and entrepreneurship.
The BSSLP builds students’ capacity to conduct community-based research using a youth participatory action research (YPAR) method. The objectives of that aspect of the program are to: (a) deepen students’ engagement in learning; (b) strengthen leadership and empowerment; (c) increase research and communication skills; (d) improve critical awareness about social problems; and (e) expand social networks in the communities of Black students.
This report provides an understanding of how Black students and experiential partners interacted with and benefited from the BSSLP. To gather feedback on the BSSLP, two surveys were conducted in July 2021, one with student participants and the other with community partners and organizations. Data collection also included observations. The main themes that emerged suggested that the BSSLP:
- had an overall positive impact on Black students;
- was beneficial for the experiential partners and their organizations;
- contributed to Black students’ career development;
- enhanced Black students’ interpersonal skills; and
- developed Black students’ research and analytical skills through YPAR.
Overall, students’ and experiential partners positive experience of the program reinforced the objective of the BSSLP to promote Black excellence. The program also had long-term benefits for Black students’ post-secondary achievement and career path. Student and experiential partners agreed that moving forward, the Centre of Excellence needs to consider:
- Extending the placement opportunities for students and the amount of time that students learn about YPAR.
- Creating a mentorship program where former BSSLP can share their experiences.
- Designing a program logistics hub that will develop an information guide to support students and experiential partners, organize information sessions, and proactively recruit participants at an early stage. The program logistics would include facilitating communication between students and partners prior to placement in order to discuss expectations.
- Establishing a partnership between the BSSLP and the Continuing Education Department.
- Collaborating and communicating with partners at different intervals of the program to support students and experiential partners.