York U program works to connect disadvantaged youth to community, set sights on PSE

May 6, 2013

Gangs and guns make the headlines, but the "violence of low expectations" is taking the real toll on youth in communities such as Toronto's Jane and Finch, says a York University researcher. Her team is linking 40 university students with 40 young people in a Jane-Finch high school to raise expectations. The researcher hopes that though social action projects such as a basketball tournament and a rap talent show, the Jane-Finch youth will discover their strengths and begin to see themselves as future PSE students with futures beyond the community stereotypes. Nearly 200,000 Toronto youth ages 15 to 29 live in one of the city's 13 priority neighbourhoods, including Jane-Finch. Identified by United Way Toronto and city hall as low income and lacking in community services, these neighbourhoods have been earmarked for social and capital investments, but for many area residents, positive change is often pierced by drug busts, violence, and negative press. The York U researcher developed the concept for the NOISE project (New Opportunities for Innovative Student Engagement) out of a larger university research initiative on youth. One of the research findings is the widening gap between the percentage of Jane-Finch students completing university and those outside priority neighbourhoods. The researcher has received $50,000 from York U's provost to continue the NOISE project next year with an additional 20 students in a nearby priority neighbourhood. Eventually, as the group tweaks the model, the researcher would like to see it replicated in all 13 priority neighbourhoods. Toronto Star