Four to watch: Convocation 2014's community builders

Sub-title: 
Mentoring youth and volunteering at home and abroad
Author: 
Jelena Damjanovic
More than 12,500 students are expected to cross the stage at Convocation Hall this June, receive their hard-won undergraduate or graduate degrees, and join the ranks of the University of Toronto's more than half a million alumni around the world.
 
That's more than 12,500 unique stories of dedication, struggle, creativity and triumph to celebrate  from those who held part-time or even full-time jobs while studying, to those who juggled family and volunteer responsibilities, launched their own companies, or published leading research.
 
While most of those stories will only be shared among family, friends, classmates and mentors, U of T News asked faculty and staff for their suggestions of grads who are global citizens, health leaders, community builders, entrepreneurs, education leaders and city builders to watch in the years to come. 
 
Below, writer Jelena Damjanovic shares some of the stories of U of T's community builders.

While studying for a double major in Sociology and Political Science at the University of Toronto Scarborough, Kimberley Moore found time to be a homework club tutor in the East Scarborough Storefront and a mentor for the IMANI academic mentorship program, senior executive for the UTSC Jamaican Canadian student affiliation and DJ at Fusion radio – and that’s just scratching the surface.

Describing herself as a passionate person, Moore draws inspiration to be the best she can be from her Jamaican culture and family. The U of T community has been another source of inspiration.

“The university helped me develop invaluable analytical tools that I will use for the rest of my life,” says Moore.
“My colleagues, particularly those I disagree with, were one of my strongest inspirations at UofT. 

"At times, my discomfort with their stances and my inability to counter their points encouraged me to improve my own.”

Moore enjoys connecting the dots between her academic and community work. “One of the most fulfilling parts of my community development internship in Brazil last year,” says Moore, “was that I noticed that the root of social problems that impacted the lives of my Brazilian students were often similar to those that impact the lives of my mentees in East Scarborough.”

Her proudest achievement has been witnessing the personal and academic growth of her mentees, four of whom plan on applying to science programs at the University of Toronto next year.

In the fall, Moore will be moving to New York City to attend the Columbia University School of Social Work in pursuit of her Masters of Science in Social Work.

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Christine Farquharson will be leaving U of T with a double major in Economics and European Studies with a Political Science minor. During her studies, Farquharson amassed a long list of extra-curricular experiences, from working as a research assistant to mentoring students in the First-Year Learning Community program.

“One of the best things about U of T,” says Farquharson “is that you can pursue almost any interest with a group of like-minded people in one of the University's many clubs and courses.

“Even in a geographic sense, the University encouraged me to pursue my interests,” says Farquharson. Because the downtown campus is located so close to Queen's Park, she’s been able to pursue her interest in public policy through a part-time job at the Ontario Public Service's Cabinet Office.

Farquharson says the University has literally expanded her horizons. In second year, she attended the Trudeau Conference on immigration policy in Halifax. The following year, she had two opportunities to conduct research abroad through the International Course Module program, spending a week in Kosovo, researching the diaspora's impact on economic development, and a week in Brasilia, looking at the negotiations for an EU-Mercosur trade agreement.

Professor Michael Donnelly's Vic One course on creating a decent capitalist society had a transformative effect.

“I learned about ideas from disciplines as varied as anthropology, equity studies, philosophy, global health, and Classics,” says Farquharson, “and from classmates whose political view ranged from Marxism to the Tea Party.

“As an aspiring policy analyst, these are perspectives that I know have helped me develop a more nuanced worldview.”

In the fall, Farquharson will be starting an MSc program in Economics at the London School of Economics. After that, she hopes to complete a Master’s of Public Policy and then pursue a career in policy analysis.

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Tresanne Fernandes did a double major in Environmental Health and Psychology with a minor in Environment and Behaviour. Mentoring youth at Rockcliffe Middle School, serving as an Alternative Reading Week project leader, and starting a club on campus that raises awareness of sexual abuse, won her the 2014-15 Gordon Cressy Leadership Award, recognizing students’ outstanding extra-curricular contributions to the University.

One of the driving forces behind Fernandes’ many accomplishments is her willingness to challenge herself and step outside her comfort zone. 

"I started taekwondo in third year and learned to swim at Hart House that summer,” says Fernandes. “Other times it's just making conversation with a stranger.”

Fernandes takes many lessons away from U of T, notably the theme of interconnectedness highlighted in Mark Hathaway’s course on environmental worldviews. “We are so used to looking at things in a polarized way,” says Fernandes, “yet a lot of things are set up in complex systems.

"Humans are interconnected, all species are interconnected, and the problems we face are influenced by so many factors. To solve world problems we need to work together.”

Workshops offered by the Centre for Community Partnerships (CCP) helped her to conceive of different communication styles between people on a personal and cultural level. “The more I became involved in the CCP, the more I was able to clarify what I value; serving the community.”

Fernandes is currently volunteering in the Dominican Republic. Her plans for the future include doing a bit of travel, a bit of self-discovery, some volunteering, and discovering how best to save the world.

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Arisa Babiuk majored in Equity Studies with a double minor in History and Political Science. While studying, she served on the Woodsworth College Students' Association and Mature Students' Association, volunteered as a note taker for Accessibility Services, and worked on Woodsworth's student Journal, VOX.

Years before starting her undergraduate studies at U of T, Babiuk tried to open a dog daycare in Brampton, but her permit was denied by the city.

“I was insufficiently prepared for this challenge,” said Babiuk “and I realized that I would require more formalized preparation to achieve my future goals.” She turned her sights on law school and never looked back.

Babiuk began her studies at U of T through the Millie Rotman Shime Academic Bridging Program. U of T made the world around her seem so much bigger, yet also smaller: far more complicated and complex, yet also more knowable and accessible. 

"I am more aware of the ways that our historical and political pasts have shaped today’s social structures and economic relationships,” said Babiuk “and I am also more interested in exploring how the events of today will go on to shape the world of tomorrow.”

Babiuk’s drive to help others stems from her desire to see increases in social equality and social justice.
“I am interested in doing my part to help level the footing so that youth and other marginalized peoples can better fulfil their potential and reach their life goals.”

Her proudest achievements: earning her undergraduate degree and being accepted into law school at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Eagerly anticipating her career as a lawyer, she is also looking forward to becoming more politically active, so that she can continue to seek a more equitable and hopeful future for herself and for others.