Finding Partnerships outside of U of T’s bubble

I’ve blogged quite a bit about life in the U of T bubble. I do find it surreal, and often wonderful, that you can completely forget about the outside world while on campus, living in this strange world of grassy quads, old buildings and unadulterated ideas. The nice thing about U of T is that when you step outside that bubble, you’re in the biggest city in Canada and one of the most exciting in the world. This brings great opportunity, and with great opportunity, comes great responsibility. In all seriousness, having Toronto out there means you have, amidst the festivals, stores and concerts, an extremely diverse community to work with. Enter the Centre for Community Partnerships. A U of T office with a dual purpose, the CCP aims to enrich the student experience while making a positive impact on the community. It does this in a number of ways. For one, they directly organize several programs, such as Alternative Reading Week and the From 3-to-3 Program, which allow students to volunteer in various capacities in communities across Toronto, whether it be painting houses or tutoring kids. The idea is that this educates us in ways we don’t always develop in the classroom—certainly, it would expose me to issues and people I would not encounter inside the bubble. The CCP also encourages and supports student-led initiatives in the community. Karen McCrank, CCP’s lovely and extremely approachable Coordinator of Co-Curricular Service-Learning and Student Development (mouthful much?), acts with students in this capacity. “Our role at the CCP is to support students' leadership development and learning through service-learning programs and courses,” says Karen. And, for the students, this can pay off *big*. I recently attended a cheque presentation ceremony for one of these student initiatives and the cheque was physically and fiscally very impressive. Presented by State Farm Insurance, the cheque was presented to Project Pathways, “a service-learning program that engages student leaders from different areas of study at the University of Toronto to conduct seminars for local high schools students in underprivileged schools,” says Karen. The program, started by U of T undergrads Julie He and Connie Sun, aims to close the “achievement gap” across students from different socio-economic backgrounds via student-run seminars, mentorship and scholarships. I have to say, I was inspired to get out there in the community myself, and not for purely benevolent reasons. The amount these students have learned from starting, organizing and lobbying for a program, applying for funding, volunteering in schools and being exposed to such diversity is kind of amazing. And by kind of, I mean bigger than that cheque. - Liz

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