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Introduction

Alternative Reading Week: Community Leadership and Compassion

Alternative Reading Week: Community Leadership and Compassion

Alternative Reading Week (ARW) is a bi-annual program that encourages students to connect with their communities, develop skills such as verbal communication, and participate in social justice initiatives. Last year, for the first time at St. George Campus, ARW occurred during the first week of November (November 5-7, 2019). By the way, if you’re interested in this initiative, the registration deadline for the winter semester of ARW (happening February 18 to 20) is this Friday!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to Alternative Reading Week as many personal issues piled up on me and I had difficulty handling everything. It took me a while to make my decision since I didn’t want to let anyone down. However, I realized that I needed a break and that I’d been pushing myself for far too long.

Instead, I decided to interview Amina Farah, the Coordinator of Co-Curricular Learning at the Centre for Community Partnerships and organizer of ARW, a project leader from Innovation Hub, as well as a participant of the same program to gauge the scope of ideas and values shared in ARW. I’ll share a few of the questions I asked them on this blog!

Participant of Innovation Hub program at ARW

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your project and why you decided on it?

Our project involved coding qualitative data provided to us by the Innovation Hub which was gathered by them from six-word stories written by U of T students about their experience at the university. I decided on the project because it was focused on mental health, and I wanted to learn about what the Innovation Hub does to help students with their mental health.

Q: What do you think you’ve learned/gained from participating in ARW?

I learned how to code qualitative data. I took a first year sociology course in which I also coded qualitative data. However, we never got the assignment back, so this project was a good refresher and more fun. I also enjoyed meeting new students from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds. Our group was a mixture of recent alumni, undergraduate, and graduate students.

 

Picture of Group of people for ARW 2018
My group and I at Regent Park Focus in February 2019’s Arw!

Project Leader of Innovation Hub program at ARW

Q: Why did you choose to Project Lead this initiative?

In light of recent years, with mental health becoming an increasingly prevalent issue, as someone with numerous points of intersectionality I really wanted to get involved with Innovation Hub which is a student-led cause – whose mission is to open the dialogue between students and the administration and discuss ways to improve the overall student experience. I believe in what Innovation Hub stands for, and recognize that they’re making great strides towards helping us students.

Q: What were some challenges you had in your leadership position?

This year’s ARW experience definitely taught me a lot of leadership and facilitation skills; having minimal guidance and direction encouraged us to take that opportunity to be more assertive and hone our decision-making and collaboration skills.

 

Picture of Project Leaders at Alternative Reading Week!
once again, your ARW Project Leaders and Lead Project Leaders 2019-2020!

Amina Farah, Coordinator of Co-Curricular Learning:

Q: What is often the most challenging part of planning large-scale events such as ARW?

The juggling, the many things up in the air that you have to keep going. Making sure you have enough Project Leaders to run all projects, and enough participants to fill all the spots. That community partners know what to expect and that they’re going to be okay. That everyone has what they need in order to be successful. That’s the challenge—a balancing act. To get the balancing act quite right is also part of the fun. Because it’s connecting people to what they need and want.

Q: How important community is to a person? Or to you?

It affects my mental health, the way I relate to other people in the world, my sense of belonging. I think if you try new things, you’ll have more opportunities to connect to people in the community, and the more health you will have. Sometimes you can’t but… whenever I feel stressed I connect to my community.

 

What are some ways you connect to people in your community, and what values do you share?

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