York University has cancelled its Emerging Global Leaders Program (EGLP) for high school students.
Barbadian students started participating in the three-day May retreat in 2004, while Jamaicans joined the program seven years ago.
While recognizing the importance the program has played in fostering leadership skills and building relationships among youth from around the world, York International said in a release that it’s reviewing and assessing its priorities.
“At this point, it’s a budgeting thing and I can’t anticipate it coming back in the foreseeable future,” said Craig Wright, the university’s international student programs co-ordinator. “But you never say never.”
When asked about the amount of financial resources the university spent on the program annually, Wright said “it was a very significant amount of money”.
Alumni groups in the Greater Toronto Area primarily funded the students’ airfares, while York was mainly responsible for accommodation and food expenses.
The high school version of the program started a decade ago as an offshoot of an initiative for university students launched in 1999.
“Originally, it was for 35 international students attending York and the second year it was expanded to 50 domestic and international students to try and provide an international experience at home for domestic students and also experience with cross-cultural communication for international students,” said Wright.
In 2002, the program won a Canadian Bureau of International Education Outstanding International Education award.
After hosting a successful pilot retreat for international students in Barbados in 2003, a group of 15 Bajan high school students came to York University the following year. They were the first set of Caribbean students to participate in the retreat at the York University campus.
Seven years ago, Orlando Lopez – a Jamaican student enrolled at York University – suggested that Jamaican students should be included in the program. The university, working in conjunction with the Alliance of Jamaican Alumni Associations (AJAA) in the Greater Toronto Area, brought the first batch of students in 2006.
Lopez said the EGLP program was the catalyst for his student involvement at York.
“Prior to my participation, I spent my time only studying or working,” said Lopez, who is a financial planner at TD Waterhouse. “After meeting student leaders at EGLP, I was impressed by the projects they spoke so passionately about. However, it wasn’t until I was an EGLP mentor and had the opportunity to meet Caribbean high school leaders that I made the decision to act. I was so in awe by these young leaders that I felt my excuses of not having time to get involved was no longer valid.”
A few years ago, former Ontario government minister, Mary Anne Chambers, was a guest speaker at the retreat.
“I saw first-hand the enthusiasm of the York University students who were hosts to the high school participants from the Caribbean and was struck by the talents, maturity and potential of the high school participants,” said Chambers.
Already committed to hosting students for this month’s cancelled retreat, several alumni groups brought the young people to Toronto for a few days. Among them was Cornwall College Old Boys Association, which invited 16-year-old Roger Webb to its annual brunch two weeks ago.
He plans to attend medical school and become an ear, nose and throat specialist.
“I have no doubt that he will do everything necessary to achieve his dream,” said Chambers, who sat at the same table with Webb at the brunch. “This is an excellent example of the kind of aspirations the EGLP is intended to foster and Roger is an excellent example of the kind of talent and potential that should be supported. I hope the alumni associations will be able to find a way to continue to provide these kinds of opportunities.”
AJAA president Paul Barnett said a few Canadian universities have shown an interest in adopting the program.
The EGLP high school program offered young people an opportunity to explore critical concepts and skills in successful leadership in Canadian and international contexts with special emphasis on cross-cultural communication and team building. It also helped the teenagers grasp an understanding of the most important concepts in career planning and reflect on their strengths and areas of growth.