Starting high school as a new grade 9 student is a life-shaping transition. It is exciting in all of the newness it promises: it’s bigger, a different teacher for each subject, more fellow students in the building, new academic challenges, and more. It can also be laced with anxiety, stress and uncertainty.
This is even more true for students already facing challenges. In Toronto, there is a policy called age-appropriate promotion where all students in grade 8 – regardless of how they did and where their skills are at – will go to grade 9. This is further complicated when, whether it is Math or English, you are not ready to jump into the new curriculum with confidence. There are also neighbourhood complexities, where persistent myths of the other side of the community, a side where you spend little to no time, come crashing together in a building that is the home high school to both. And then there is the perceived pecking order; you come in as a grade 9, with hundreds of seasoned senior students who can make or break your experience.
With all of that in mind, Success Beyond Limits delivers a comprehensive summer program at York University for students in the Jane and Finch community. Hosted in our new location of the recently re-designed Osgoode Hall Law School, the plush, bright, open-concept space immediately sets the atmosphere to the tune of excellence.
Registering 115 grade 9 students to earn their first credit before beginning high school in September, they make incredible use of their summer. They are met at our three bus pick-up locations throughout the community by 23 senior Westview Centennial students in bright blue shirts who work in the summer program through the TDSB Focus on Youth program as Mentors (who also have the chance to earn dual coop credits, while employed).
Upon arrival at York, students are met by a daily breakfast and an opening morning assembly – a mish-mash of inspiration, energy and instructions on the day.
Students spend the morning in classrooms with seven amazing TDSB teachers earning a General Learning Strategies credit, focusing on literacy, numeracy and life skills. With small class sizes, we have 1 teacher, 3 mentors and 15 students in each room. Making use of the technology equipped classrooms at York University, students benefit from differentiated instruction, one-on-one support, and exciting, relevant content.
New to the program this year is a Hip Hop curriculum that has been incorporated into the classroom, using the music and culture that students are passionate about to engage in higher-order thinking and critical discussions and learning aimed at empowerment.
Lunch is also a unique time for us. It is considered class time, where students, teachers and mentors eat together over discussions that unpack and reinforce the learning of the summer.
In the afternoon, our Mentors are supported by guest facilitators and a pair of former Mentors as Recreation Staff as they make the most of the amazing facilities of the York University campus. They go swimming, make use of the gym, and they use the music and dance studios to engage in a variety of arts, sports and recreation activities.
Each week is capped off with a field trip to a variety of fun and engaging spots around our city that include go-karting, roller-skating, a wave pool, a beach day, and more.
Some of the highlights of the summer program include our Parent Night, Career Day, the Track Meet, Play Day, the Mock Trials (delivered by the LAWS program), and our graduation to be held on August 6th.
Of note, is that over the past few summers many of our students, mentors, staff and teachers in our summer program have been observing Ramadan. This year it is taking place between July 9th to August 8th, and through accommodations everyone is able to enjoy Ramadan while participating in our summer of fun.
The Success Beyond Limits Education Program is delivered in partnership with the Toronto District School Board and the York University Faculty of Education.
The Success Beyond Limits Summer Program is supported by:
Jays Care Foundation, Toronto District School Board (Urban Priority High School Fund, Focus on Youth, Continuing Education, and Westview Centennial Secondary School), Trillium Foundation, Jumpstart Foundation, York University Faculty Association, United Way Toronto, COSTI, and Human Resources and Social Development Canada.