The first graduating class of UforChange – almost 50 dynamic youth from Toronto’s St James Town neighbourhood – got their certificates and celebrated their success in a day-long showcase on Sunday, May 16, at the jam-packed Parliament Street studio space. They were cheered on by proud parents, sisters and brothers, friends and many others from the community. Many of the grads of the arts-based youth training project are now moving on to placements in the arts sector – everything from television production to dog-grooming. The Wellesley Institute is proud to be the lead agency in the community collaboration that is supporting UforChange.
The youth participated in a series of workshops over the past few months that provided them with training and practical information in arts, employment and community issues. The initiative is supported by funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, along with contributions from the Wellesley Institute, Low Income Families Together, Banyan Youth, Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre and Canadian Community Initiatives.
During the five-hour Sunday showcase, UforChange grads performed dance, spoken word and music – and displayed their fashion design and photography skills. UforChange also launched a CD compilation of the work of the participants. The youth in the program have been labeled ‘at risk’ – they have been socially and economically excluded from the mainstream. The goal of UforChange is to provide training and other practical supports to the youth.
UforChange has already started to recruit for its second cohort – which will be double the size of the first graduating class, with as many as 115 youth participants.
In addition to providing administrative and project management support to the UforChange steering committee and project team, the Wellesley Institute is leading the internal evaluation process. By identifying issues and documenting successful strategies, we aim to provide practical information to assist in the development of similar initiatives in other communities across Canada.
Social inclusion and meaningful employment are two important components of personal health, and also the health of communities.