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SBL 2013 - classes, staff, and mentors


Good Afternoon SBL Friends and Supporters,


A chill in the air and the warmth of the sun sums up the season we are entering, the beginning of a new school year.  Looking back at our summer, there is a similar contrast: we moved between the heights of joy and the depths of despair.  Our summer program, by all accounts, was the best yet.  Our mentors, teachers, students, volunteers, partners, funders, and parents were incredible in making it all happen.  Being in Osgoode Hall Law School enhanced the experience for everyone, as did the dedication from our mentors who went through 14 weeks of training leading up to the summer.  And we lost three amazing young people in the community: Tahj, Oshe and Kwame.  Mentors, students and staff  lost friends, neighbours, and community members.  While our city seeks answers to the questions of ‘what is happening’ and ‘why’, we sit in a position of privilege where we are daily witnesses to the success, positivity, dedication, leadership and commitment of youth in Jane and Finch.  And we hope to share some of that with you.


Mentor Debrief Week

After our 6 week summer program, each year we spend one additional at York U with our mentors for our debrief week.  Through a series of workshops and facilitated conversations we reflect on the accomplishments and challenges of the summer program and prepare for the role our mentors will play in the coming school year.  One of the challenges a program as intensive as ours can face is that, by week six, people tend to be pretty exhausted.  However, one of the big markers of how this summer went was that our mentors finished the program energized and missing the students – they said they were ready to go for a few more weeks!


School and Community Partnerships – YCEC 

Since 2008, we have participated in the annual York University Centre for Education and Community (YCEC) summer institute.  This year, the theme was school and community partnerships – a perfect fit for us.  Having been a part of the planning process, SBL offered a workshop on the first day of the institute.  Taking place on August 27th and 28th at York U, Kaneka (Program Manager) and Hafsa (Mentor) facilitated a panel discussion, which turned the room into a fully interactive conversation where learning was shared from all that were present (and included some powerful performances from two of our Mentors, Destini and Moose).  We were happy to have the Trillium Foundation and JustBGraphic join our staff, mentors, and youth board members on the panel to illustrate how many partners it really takes to make a school and community partnership work.


Glendon Tour

On Monday, July 29th, a group of 15 students and mentors from our program headed on the York U shuttle bus to the Glendon Campus for a tour of this small, yet beautiful part of the university.  Students were led through the full spectrum of post-secondary student life at Glendon, from the athletic facilities, residence and the academic environment, to the emphasis on the French language and the storied history of the campus.  Highlighted by a tour of the office of President Emerita Dr. Lorna Marsden, who treated us to lunch, which really made everyone feel like VIP guests.  You know the impact of something like this through the conversations on the bus ride home; the consistent sentiment was about seeing university as a cool life experience and something to be excited about.


Career Day 2013

One of the highlights each summer is our Career Day.  We invite ten young, diverse professionals to come out to York for a full morning with us.  Students rotate in small groups through 10 different rooms for a Q&A style dialogue with each of our guests.  The careers included this year were entrepreneur, journalist, lawyer, mechanic, and more.  As important as the range of careers is, the depth of the stories shared are even more powerful;  stories which point out the journeys of ups, downs, and unpredictable twists that have brought these accomplished professionals to the place where they desire to share the intimate details behind their achievements.  You can see photos and a story about the day from SNAP North York at the following link:[]=570069&photoId=1924736&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=snapd

CBC Video Link

When we decided to pilot the Hip Hop Curriculum being developed in partnership with the TDSB and Education Attainment West, it was because of the huge success we had seen in our own Hip Hop Literacy programming, which was led by SBL staff and teacher, Tesfai (one of the writers of this emerging curriculum).  Moving beyond the idea of looking at Hip Hop lyrics and using them to teach English, this curriculum aims at engaging with content and to bring about higher order thinking in students on issues of class, gender and media literacy.  In July, CBC News came by to check out how students are responding to it.  If you missed the airing of the piece, you can check it out here:


Mentor Profile in Boss Magazine – Whitney Smith 

Whitney Smith joined our program as a mentee in 2009, and quickly emerged as a leader, being voted in by her fellow mentees as the summer program valedictorian.  It was not long before her volunteering in the program led to a role as a mentor.  In her last year at Westview she served as Student Council President (and Westview valedictorian), and spent the summer with us in a position that she pitched to us, where she would shadow and support the SBL staff team in order to learn how the program functions, “behind the scenes”.  In the most recent issue of the AMAZING youth-led issue of BOSS Magazine, Whitney was featured.  Read more about this amazing young leader whose name you will come to recognize over the years.

You can read it on page 102 of the magazine (page 52 of the PDF) at this link:


Graduation 2013!

Held on Tuesday, August 6th in the Price Family Theatre at York U, we were overwhelmed to welcome over 300 people to celebrate the success of youth in the Jane and Finch community.  The evening was full of performances, awards and our  end of summer slide show.

Highlights included Matthew receiving the Jays Care Mentor Among Mentors Award (voted on strictly by the mentors) for the second year in a row, and Moose receiving the newly launched Student’s Choice Mentor Award.

In addition to the many acknowledgements of accomplishment and growth throughout the evening, we were most proud that 100 students earned their first secondary school credit!

You can read about what the North York Mirror wrote about our grad at:


Toronto Star Article and Conversation

On Saturday, August 31st, the Toronto Star published a story titled “Jane and Finch: Toronto’s most dangerous place to be a kid?”.The story was in response to the tragic loss of life seen in the community this year.  Many of the sentiments shared did not make it into the article, but you can see the perspective we tried to bring to the conversation.

You can read the story here:

You can see our attempt to shift the nature of the conversation through twitter here:


We will be continuing the dialogue Friday, September 6th from 11am-12:30pm online through a link connected to the article link above.


Young Lives Taken From Us

As you are all well aware, the passing of St.Aubyn, Tahj, Oshe and Kwame over the past few months has broken hearts and left so many in grief.  In the midst of this, many throughout the city have been talking about what is happening with the search for ‘why’ and ‘what do we do’ at the heart of the conversation.  SBL was asked to join this conversation on Metro Morning on August 26th.

You can listen to that interview here:



On Saturday, September 28th, SBL is partnering with Macpri and in hosting an Oware Tournament at Westview Centennial. Oware is a strategy board game centuries old with roots that stretch throughout 54 African countries, the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Germany.  From 10am to 6pm, players from the ages of “9 to 90” will be competing to be the tournament champion.  The day will also feature an African Inventors Museum, performances, food and crafts.  Come check it out with the whole family!

You can read more about the event at: