Mentorship program helps students in Scarborough


Ask Grade Eight student Amos Benson what he aspires to be and he will unhesitatingly and confidently tell you he wants to be a doctor.

The St. Edmund Campion Catholic School student now understands that the sky is the limit and he can do anything he wants after participating in the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus Imani Mentorship Program for young students from Scarborough’s east priority communities.

So delighted was 12-year-old Benson with the opportunity to be on a university campus that he invited one of his teachers to come out and see what the program was about.

“I will never forget this teacher coming to thank me for helping to make the program possible,” said former Ontario Cabinet Minister Mary Anne Chambers at last week’s graduation. “She told me she had this student in the program who asked her to come to the university to see what he was doing. To her credit, she accepted the invitation. She told me she had another student in the program in 2009 and it had made a difference in his life.

“I take my hat off to a teacher like that who supports this program because teachers are recognizing that sometimes their students need just a little bit more than what they are able to give them in their classroom.”

Benson proudly says he now knows he’s smart and becoming a doctor will enable him to save lives which is what he wants to do.

Chambers, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the U of T and later served on the Board of Governors and as vice-chair of the Governing Council, financially supports the mentorship program for students from St. Edmund Campion, West Hill Collegiate Institute, Pope John Paul II Catholic Secondary School, St. Margaret’s Public School and Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute.

“I wish that your dreams for your future are larger and more exciting than they were when you first started coming to this program,” said Chambers. “The quality of life in cities where universities are located is perceived to be higher than those without universities. Ironically, in almost 30 years that I lived in Scarborough, I was of the impression that many residents did not care much about the presence of the U of T Scarborough campus or Scarborough College as it was previously known. The university was a bit of an unknown entity, important perhaps to someone else somewhere else.”

In her second year at the U of T in 2006, Rashelle Litchmore established the mentorship program that pairs university students with local elementary and high school students. Previously, U of T Black Student Alliance members helped a handful of students in the community with their homework.

“Coming to Canada from Jamaica to complete high school, Rashelle quickly observed that while in Jamaica it was considered very cool to do well in school; it seems like the Black students in her Scarborough high school (West Hill) did not share that belief, so she set out to address that,” Chambers said. “The power of one is how I describe Rashelle’s wisdom and drive.”

U of T Scarborough campus president Franco Vaccarino saluted Chambers and the mentors and promised the campus will support endeavours to make a positive difference in the community.

“You are the engine that has driven the growth of this program,” he told the mentors. “Because of your commitment, young people from our community are getting a very special experience.”

The East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club is also a partner in the Imani Mentorship Program.

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