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|Established as Toronto's first public college in 1966, Centennial College offers programs in business, communications, community and health studies, science and engineering technology, general arts, hospitality and transportation.|
Among the big winners at the IPAC/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Awards presentation in Toronto on Feb. 13 was Centennial College, which earned gold for its Youth and Community Engagement Relationship Model, the community outreach strategy that is responsible for the college’s popular summer HYPE program and its First Generation Student Project.
The prestigious national award acknowledges organizations that have demonstrated outstanding leadership by taking bold steps to improve Canada through advancements in public policy and management. "The winners demonstrated clear leadership, which really is about the courage to try new approaches, the initiative to see big projects through to conclusion, and the ability to collaborate to make the most of limited or existing resources," Kathy Parker, Associate Partner with Deloitte, told the audience.
Centennial's HYPE (Helping Youth Pursue Education) program is rooted in former Toronto Mayor David Miller's Community Safety Plan. The program focuses on youth aged 19 to 29 who are living in priority neighbourhoods, providing them with free career-oriented training programs to re-engage them in higher education. Participants received their tuition, transportation, textbooks and meals at no cost, thanks to generous grants from the Michael Clemons' Youth Challenge Fund and the TD Bank Financial Group. After eight years, HYPE is embedded in the college’s budget, and bursaries have been established to support HYPE graduates in their first and second years of full-time study at Centennial.
More recently, Centennial established programs to support first-generation students – those who are the first in their family to pursue postsecondary education – by forming partnerships with community organizations and Toronto’s school boards. Both outreach and in-reach activities developed the multi-level, systemic relationships that are essential to keep vulnerable first-generation students in college and achieving academic success. Currently, Centennial staff and student mentors provide outreach and in-reach support to about 100 high-school students and more than 950 college students, advising them of resources and services available to them, and engaging them through information fairs, health awareness and lunch-and-learn sessions.
Centennial’s award-winning model recognizes that at-risk youth and first-generation students face similar challenges to completing postsecondary education: they lack the personal resources and the parental and community supports necessary to succeed. Fortunately, there is a public college in their community that has made it a priority to reach out to them. Other gold-level winners recognized at the award ceremony included the Swan Lake First Nation in Manitoba, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and the Canadian Red Cross - Nova Scotia.