While the COVID-19 pandemic led the IMANI Academic Mentorship Program to wrap up early, that didn’t stop community members from virtually celebrating a successful 14th year.
IMANI connects Black youth in Grades 7-12, from seven schools across East Scarborough, with volunteers, facilitators and student staff from U of T Scarborough.
On May 1, more than 100 viewers virtually gathered for the IMANI Recognition Ceremony. Run by the Department of Student Life, the annual event celebrates graduating members and recognizes mentors and mentees who have excelled in the program.
Suddene Stone, a first-year psychology student, was watching the live-streamed celebration from his home in Jamaica when he learned that he won a Mentor of the Year award.
“The biggest award is seeing the mentees learn and enjoying the program,” says Stone, who will be a site facilitator next year. “It encouraged me to put the same amount of work in the years to come.”
“I think it has been the best thing for me since I started UTSC,” Stone says. “Working with youth has such an impact on me, and it’s ironic because we’re supposed to have an impact on them.”
Before joining IMANI, Ever Imafidon ran workshops for the Black community outside of school. When she first came to campus, her focus was on her studies and GPA, but it was important for her to go beyond the books.
“It made sense for me to have a community on campus that fit the values of what is important in my life,” says Imafidon, a fourth-year political science student at U of T Scarborough.
Imafidon, who will be a student lead next year, says that joining the program provided a safe space for her to talk about the issues that are important to her.
“IMANI has created an opportunity for Black students to have a space where they can discuss issues with people who they know care, stay true to who you are as a Black individual at a university and empower other people to do the same.”
Watching the ceremony online, Imafidon says that she still felt a sense of community as viewers interacted through messages of support on YouTube Live.
The celebration featured submitted video messages, including from IMANI founder Rashelle Litchmore and Mary Anne Chambers, former MPP for Scarborough East and a U of T Scarborough alum, who had a special message for mentees.
“Others are showing you that they have faith in your ability,” said Chambers, who has supported the program since its early years. “Please take that to heart, and the best of all that others have been so willing to do to support you.”
In her video message, Nadia Rosemond, assistant dean of Student Affairs, addressed the unusual circumstances of this year’s event, pointing out that name of the program means “faith” in Swahili.
“As you let IMANI recognition into your home, let that belief and faith never die, especially during this time.”
IMANI would like to recognize its supporters, namely, Scotiabank, NavaCup lead by Ganesh Navaratnarjah and The Bennett Family Foundation.