Mentorship shows students they belong

Kurt Kleiner

The IMANI program pairs local teens with UTSC student mentors like Beulah Erhiawarien.

UTSC is an intellectual and cultural hub in the eastern GTA, but it is also located close to many marginalized communities with young people who often do not consider college or university.

The university is addressing this issue through the IMANI Academic Mentorship Program. IMANI partners middle-school and high-school students from communities in East Scarborough with UTSC undergraduate student mentors to help them with homework, study skills and academic planning. The program also aims to show local students that they too can find a place at college or university.

“We demystify post-secondary education for them,” says Liza Arnason, director of the student life department at UTSC. “We say, ‘You belong here, you fit.’ ”

IMANI began in 2005 as an initiative of UTSC’s Imani Black Students Alliance and the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, which continue to be program partners and where many of the mentors come from. The program received a boost in 2007 with a donation from Mary Anne Chambers, a former Scarborough East MPP, Ontario cabinet minister and UTSC alumna.

Every year, about 70 mentors work with more than 100 students from six local schools, offering weekly academic support, tutoring and development at UTSC. Mentees and community members also come to campus a number of times during the year for workshops, lectures and special events.