Summer HYPE graduation celebrates perseverance
More than 100 young people committed a big part of their summer to participate in HYPE – Helping Youth Pursue Education – Centennial College's tuition-free learning experience that opens doors to higher education and fulfilling careers.
Over six weeks the students, aged 17 to 29, took part in seven courses in business fundamentals, human development, automotive technology, esthetics, introduction to computers, digital media and culinary arts to get a sense of the career paths that may interest them.
The initiative promotes education attainment by reducing the barriers to participation for youth living in under-served neighbourhoods, primarily in Toronto's east end. In addition to attending classes at no cost, participants receive transit fare and meals during the day to ensure they're fully fueled to learn.
The HYPE Class of 2017 came together on August 10 to celebrate their achievement and to share some inspiring messages. The class valedictorian was Srimoloj Srianandan, a young man who lost his father at age 3, had witnessed civil war in his native Sri Lanka, and who got into trouble with the law when his family relocated to Toronto as a youth.
"It's great to stand in a room full of people who have your back," he told the class, who were accompanied by family and friends attending the graduation ceremony at Progress Campus. "I listened to my brother, who told me to come here to Centennial to try a program. Now I work at Bombardier Aerospace."
Srimoloj returned to Centennial over the summer to sample the college's automotive training program through HYPE. The program serves to demystify college for those who may feel intimidated by higher education – often after having had a poor experience in high school. For Srimoloj, the Thursday guest speaker series motivated him to try new things despite the setbacks he's had in his life.
"Listen to those who form your inner circle of family and friends," Anthony Bertin, manager of Centennial's Community Outreach Office, told the crowd, underscoring what Srimoloj had said about his brother. He praised the class for persevering to complete the program despite the distractions that summer brings. "Congratulations for finishing what you began!"
Centennial continues to augment the benefits of the summer program, including HYPE Works, which offers mentoring, supported experience in job fairs, and skill credentialing workshops to increase employability. In addition, HYPE Works Express is a one-week program designed to increase employment readiness for youth who have to work prior to starting college. The program is brought to life through the support of TD Bank.
According to Youth Outreach Coordinator Ahmed Bawah, about one-third of HYPE graduates go on to pursue full-time studies at college in the fall, while some will enter the workforce directly. Other participants won't come to a decision that quickly and will spend more time exploring their options, which Ahmed says is fine, too.
"HYPE appeared because you were ready," he told the graduating class. "We will be here again tomorrow to help you."