Alumnus Queen Kukoyi Uses her History to Help through Social Work
Queen Kukoyi was just 17 when she found herself homeless. Two years earlier, Queen had fled to Canada to escape her abusive stepfather. She moved in with her biological father in Toronto and had high hopes for a better life. But those dreams came crashing down when he was arrested for dealing drugs, leaving Queen to fend for herself.
She moved into a youth homeless shelter, where she met the woman who would change her life. “My social worker, Michelle, fought so hard for me,” says Queen. “She got me back into school, helped me see a doctor and connected me with wraparound services.”
With Michelle’s support, Queen was able to get back on her feet and found a job working for a bank. But she quickly found her true passion volunteering with vulnerable youth. In 2014, Queen enrolled in Centennial’s Social Service Worker program as a mature student to realize her dream of working with young people full-time. After graduating with honours in 2016, she immediately found a job as a provincial youth outreach worker. Today, she is a director of Stolen from Africa, an arts-based education non-profit serving vulnerable black youth. “I know what it means to be homeless as a young person and to be going through different challenges, but Centennial prepared me to work in this field by giving me the language, the practical knowledge and the contacts that I needed to navigate institutional spaces and programs,” she says.
Queen’s Advice to New Alumni:
“I always say to young people that anyone can talk to someone in need, but as a social worker you engage with people in unique ways. A simple conversation can change someone’s life. That’s what happened to me, and that’s why I’m giving back.”
Written By: Emily Dontsos