Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Ujamaa Career Conference to Focus on Nurturing Black Excellence

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed       Karen Lowhar, Student Success Transitions Counsellor, Toronto District School Board

Black students in grades 7 to 12 in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) will have an opportunity in May to explore their job interests at the Africentric Alternative Ujamaa Career Conference under the theme “Nurturing Black Excellence.”

Karen Lowhar, a student success transitions counsellor with the TDSB, conceptualized the conference after volunteering at the Toronto Black Youth Conference in January this year.

That conference, which was a youth-led initiative created by black youth for black youth and held at the Toronto Reference Library, also had a theme of black excellence

Lowhar said she approached Luther Brown, principal of the Africentric Alternative School, with the idea and he endorsed it.

She then secured funding from the associate director, got her team together and started planning.

“I view this work as part of student success. The data is showing that black youth are not doing well within our system. And, I believe that they need to see people who look like them accomplishing goals so that they can actualize possibilities for themselves. Student success is what I am passionate about, especially for underserved students. Successful outcomes are for all students, not some students,” she said.

On May 11, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. the Africentric Alternative School at 1430 Sheppard Avenue West in Toronto will host the conference in recognition of the school’s 10th anniversary.

“We came up with the name for the conference because ‘Ujamaa’ means collective economics. Creating career pathways for black youth is how we are going to move our community forward,” said Lowhar.

She said they chose to celebrate the school’s anniversary with a career conference because they “felt that it would have the most impact in supporting black students and build community partnerships for student success, which symbolizes what Africentric Alternative is all about -- student success.”

 The goals of the conference are to provide students the opportunity to explore and learn about a variety of careers that empower them to make informed choices about their future pathways, and to provide students with access to network with professionals from the Black community in a variety of fields, including: engineers, dentists, nurses, social workers, directors, skilled trades, computer programmers, electricians, entrepreneurs, and more.

It also aims to fulfill the mandate of TDSB’s Multi-year Strategic Plan on providing “equity of access to learning opportunities for all students,” to allow students to learn about diverse careers from mentors, and to provide information to parents and caregivers on how they can partner to support their children’s education journey.

The event will also allow students to understand the possibilities that are available to them “by seeing and interacting with people that are from similar racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, and who represent a variety of job and career fields; and stimulate and enhance community relationships and partnerships.”

Overall, the conference provides “an opportunity for mentors and the community to come together to network and receive resources to support their investigation of diverse career pathways.”

The target audience includes intermediate and secondary students, and their parents and caregivers.

Check out the website and register at: bit.ly/TDSBUjamaa

If you have any questions, please contact: TDSBUjamaa@gmail.com

On Friday, June 21, starting at 6:00 p.m., the Africentric Alternative School will hold its 10th Anniversary School Gala Fundraising Dinner and Awards Ceremony under the theme “Our Journey” at the Jamaican Canadian Association, 995 Arrow Road in Toronto.

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