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IMANI academic mentorship program continues to make education accessible

Samantha Smith from St. Margaret's Public School receives a Mentee of the Year award from Mary Ann Chambers. (Photo by Ken Jones)

It was an evening to reflect on the tremendous growth and continued success of a unique mentorship program created at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

“UTSC is committed to making education accessible and the IMANI program is integral to that commitment,” said UTSC Principal Bruce Kidd. “Higher education can open up a whole new world of opportunities and with it anything is possible.”

Principal Kidd was speaking to more than a hundred family, friends and teachers who recently gathered to honour UTSC student mentors and their local elementary and high school mentees of the IMANI Academic Mentorship Program.

IMANI, which means “faith” in Swahili, began in 2005 by providing mentorship to a handful of high school students in a classroom on campus. Today, the highly successful program is overseen by UTSC’s Department of Student Life and has grown to serve more than 50 mentees each week at high schools and elementary schools throughout Scarborough.

Rashelle Litchmore, who helped start the program as president of UTSC’s Black Students Alliance with the goal of helping more Black youth get to university, recalls help she received from a math tutor when she was a young student in Jamaica.

“When I wasn’t doing well in math I had no confidence in my abilities,” she says. “The guidance I received helped overcome those hurdles and really gave me the confidence I needed to succeed.” Litchmore, currently a PhD psychology student at the University of Guelph, says she wouldn’t be where she is today without the help she received from her tutor.

“No parent should have to stress out about whether they can afford to pay for the academic help that their child deserves,” said Trina James, a fourth-year Women and Gender Studies student at UTSC who received a Mentor of the Year award.

“As a child of a single parent who struggled with math and English as a student, I understand the importance of creating a safe space for children to fulfill their academic potential.”

In attendance was Mary Anne Chambers, UTSC alumna and former Scarborough East MPP and Ontario cabinet minister. Chambers, who recently received the Order of Ontario, was a founding donor and continues to support the program. Also joining the celebration was Lloyd Wilks, Jamaica’s new Consul General to Toronto.

This year six students received laptops courtesy of NavaCup, an organization founded by Ganesh Navaratnarajah dedicated to raising funds to buy computers for under-privilege children. Graduating students in the IMANI program also received a cheque towards their post-secondary education from Toronto-area businesswoman Damiris Moro.

“IMANI wouldn’t be possible without the tireless work of our student mentors and the support of our donors,” said Liza Arnason, director of Student Life at UTSC.

© University of Toronto Scarborough