Youth voices in social action


Grade 11 student

Christ The King Catholic Secondary

Georgetown, Ontario  


ACROSS Canada there are many youth that do not receive adequate support to become engaged within their communities and schools in the pursuit of social action. Taking action in a community that is stigmatized can be quite discouraging. In the Toronto area, one of most stigmatized communities would be considered the Jane and Finch area, where media disproportionately highlights negative events rather than the positive. However, the celebratory event I attended recently addressed that the mentality behind this stigmatization has definitely seen some positive breakthroughs. New Opportunities for Innovative Student Engagement (NOISE) was the program that ran the end of year event and it is a research-based organization that strives to enhance the academic success of youth from the Jane and Finch community. NOISE is nestled into the structure of Youth Research Evaluation and eXchange (YouthREX), a province-wide initiative to enhance the accessibility of research evidence and evaluation to Ontario’s youth sector through knowledge mobilization, capacity building and evaluation leadership.

Dr. Uzo Anucha, Harnoor Gill and Sasha Ramoutar.
Dr. Uzo Anucha, Harnoor Gill and Sasha Ramoutar.

The NOISE event was held at York University on the Keele Campus where youth from across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) came together to celebrate the positive social action projects seen in the Jane and Finch area. In fact, I received the great opportunity to attend this event as a keynote speaker through the support that I received from the students and staff of the NOISE program, York University. I cannot thank Sasha Ramoutar enough as she was the Project Manager of NOISE and the event and her support definitely went a long way. I would also like to thank Dr. Uzo Anucha for her continued support that she provided me with as well as the confidence boost to speak in front of these youth.

During my keynote presentation, I engaged the youth to realize the potential that each and every one of them had. Initially, I started the presentation off with an icebreaker in order to engage the audience and the icebreaker that I used was Two Truths and a Lie. It was a short activity which people in the room would be able to do at their respective tables. After the activity, I stressed the purpose to the youth to always “Take Action” whenever they can. I showed how volunteering helped to refine my skills as a public speaker and how it brought me onto the stage before them.

In terms of the event, I enjoyed every minute of it because of how well the research was going in the community of Jane and Finch. I also witnessed the phenomenal performance made by the 2012 Canadian Beatboxing Champion, Scott Jackson. Not only did Scott enhance the central theme of Turn It Up: Youth Voices In Social Action at the event, but he also showcased his stance on anti-bullying. As an anti-bullying activist, Scott shared his story at how he was bullied at a young age for making “stupid noises” by his teachers, friends and brother. However, he persevered and kept making those “stupid noises” which have now lead him into a successful career as a public speaker and beat boxer.

To conclude, I honestly had an amazing time listening to the positive changes that are occurring in the Jane and Finch area. I congratulate York University for its staff and students taking the right step forward in bridging the gap between university and community.