Leadership in Action: Series #2 – Community and Mentorship

Leadership in Action: Series #2 – Community and Mentorship

This is the second in a series of blogs that the Living Leadership Blog will be posting regarding leadership in action. These blogs are meant to highlight the many innovative and unique ways by which U of T students have decided to engage within the community. Each experience presents a diverse array of skills and dynamics that all pertain to student engagement and leadership.

The students highlighted are recipients of the 2016 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards.

This week we present two students from the Center for Community Partnerships and First in the Family Peer Mentor Program. 

Center for Community Partnerships 

The Center for Community Partnerships was founded to develop, with community organizations, partnerships that are defined, sustainable and action-oriented for students on all three University of Toronto campuses. These partnerships have a dual aim to build educational capacity within communities of the GTA and Peel regions, and to enhance and broaden student learning.  Through the establishment of academic and co-curricular service opportunities, students enhance their learning of the social, cultural, ethical, and political dimensions of civic life.

For more information, click here.

First in the Family Peer Mentor Program 

First in the Family Peer – Mentor Program (FITF) is a leadership development and training program for first generation students, whose parent(s) or guardian(s) did not complete post-secondary education in Canada, or did not complete post-secondary at all.  First generation Mentors acquire desirable skills, abilities and competencies through experiential learning.  Mentors work closely with a Program Coordinator who provides advising and coaching, and in turn, Mentors are upper year role models to a group of Mentees transitioning to and through university.  Mentors have access to a Learning Strategist who provides support with individual academic issues, and a learning curriculum to share with Mentees.  The Mentor role is an opportunity to immediately apply what is being learned.

For more information, click here.


The Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards: 2016 Recipients 

Ashley Bo Zhang: Senior MentorFirst in the Family Peer Mentor Program

Gabriel Wee:  Alternative Reading Week Project Leader, Center for Community Partnerships

Read below to discover the unique experiences that both Ashley and Gabriel had in their leadership roles!

Q: What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership means being aware that you are part of a collective, and consequently being committed to ensuring that everyone in the group is being heard, respected, and supported. Leadership also means being open-minded. It is more than okay to not know something, but a leader takes initiative and seeks to understand through guidance, collaboration, and feedback. Furthermore, leadership means being reflective. It’s often thought that a leader should always look towards the future, but FITF has taught me the value of taking the time to reflect back before moving forward. ~ Ashley

Working collaboratively with others to initiate a vision for the future, and motivating them to engage and work towards that vision. ~Gabriel

Q: What would you say is the highlight of your leadership role? 

Having been a part of First in the Family since my second year, I’ve really been able to form strong friendships within and beyond the FITF community. Being part of this ‘family’ meant that I was never alone and always had someone to turn to. It was also highly entertaining and rewarding working with such creative, driven, and supportive people on events and gradually seeing them come to fruition. Also, going to Hart House Farm (pictured) with FITF and bonding as a team by hiking in the dark, cooking dinner, and making S’mores created memories I’ll definitely cherish. ~ Ashley

We collected surveys at the end of the 3-day session. We were very pleased to see that the students had enjoyed their time with us and found the information we gave them useful in making some decisions about their post-secondary endeavors. ~Gabriel

Q: What has been your greatest leadership challenge ? How did you overcome this challenge? 

One of the greatest challenges in the leadership position as a Senior Mentor is understanding and accepting that not everyone’s experience should turn out the way your own did. As a mentor with First in the Family, I had so much fun listening to my mentees talk about their time at the university, and I would recount back to my first year, trying to draw parallels. Being in a leadership position, and having overcome similar obstacles, I always had this urge to try and direct my mentees down the trail I’ve already walked through, so they could avoid the pitfalls and mistakes I may have encountered. However, it is important to be aware that not only will others approach a situation differently, but that sometimes they also need to forge their own trail. As a leader and mentor, my role is to offer support and guide them towards the available resources, but the decision making lies with the mentee, because ultimately, this is their university experience, which I have just been fortunate enough to be allowed to play a small role in. ~ Ashley

To work with a group of students at the University of Toronto to organize and come up with activities for a three-day informational session about post-secondary opportunities for high school students. This project was undertaken in partnership with Pathways to Education, an organization dedicated to assisting youth graduate from high school and transition to post-secondary education and employment. Working collaboratively! It was challenging for any one person to organize fun and engaging activities for a three-day session. We thought it would be a good strategy to pool our ideas together and pick the most interesting ones to further develop and implement at the session. ~Gabriel


Are you in your final year of studies at U of T, and feel that you have contributed significantly to your community on campus? Nominations are now being accepted for the 2017 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Awards.  

To find out more, click here. 

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