Sankofa Pathways to University featuring Blacks students
Calling Black youth in Toronto and Waterloo Region

Sankofa Pathways to University

This summer, the University of Waterloo’s Anti-racism Unit will launch the Sankofa Pathways to University (SPU) program, open to domestic Black youth aged 17-25.  

From late June to early August 2023, SPU will bring together Black youth from Toronto and Waterloo Region to participate in a free-of-cost university class titled “Taking B(l)ack History,” focused on Blackness, Black history, and Black futures.  The course will be offered in two sections – one fully online (synchronous) and the other a blend of in-class and online experience. Maximum enrolment for each section is 25 students.

Over the seven-week period, students in the blended section will participate in a full-campus experience, while online students will experience a day-long campus tour to meet fellow SPU students and staff and pick up their student identification card. Upon successful completion of the course, students will earn a transferable university half-credit (0.5).

NOTE: Thank you for taking an interest in SPU. Our applications for this cycle are now closed.

Frequently asked questions

Who handles developing and delivering the program?

The program was developed by the University of Waterloo’s Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism (EDI-R) and is housed under Waterloo’s Arts First Program that focuses on building, “…students’ foundational competencies in communication and analysis during their first year of university.” It was developed to give Black youth an opportunity to try their hand at a university level course in a supportive environment, examining issues and histories relevant to them.

Is the program free?

Yes. The program fee is covered by the University of Waterloo making it free of cost to successful candidates.

When is the course taking place?

The course begins Monday, June 26 and ends Friday, July 28.

How much time do I have to set aside for the course?

Classes run from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every weekday excluding holidays (Canada Day is observed by the University of Waterloo on Monday, July 3).

Where is the course taking place?

Two sections of the course are being offered. One is fully online (synchronous). The other is blended – a mix of online classes and on-campus classes at the University of Waterloo’s main campus.

Is space in the course limited?

Yes. Each of the two sections has a limit of 25 students. 

What are the selection criteria for the program?

  1. Applicants must be between the ages of 17 to 25.
  2. Applicants must be Canadian Citizens or Permanent Resident (PR) holders living within the Waterloo or Toronto regions.
  3. Applicants should identify as a member of the African diaspora (e.g., Black Canadian, Black Caribbean, Black African, African American, Afro-Indigenous, etc.).
  4. At the time of application, applicants should have successfully completed their mandatory English requirements for their grade level with a minimum grade of 70% for students enrolled in academic English courses (ENGD/U), and a minimum grade of 75% for students enrolled in college or applied English courses (ENGC/P).
  5. This program is targeted at youth who want to consider university as a pathway but are unsure of their ability to succeed.

How is the course structured?

The course begins with a four-day orientation that examines your educational experiences thus far, focusing on anti-Black racism in education, mindset, stereotype threat, belonging, and strategies for success. The orientation ends with a trip to campus to obtain your student identification card, a tour, and lunch/meet-and-greet with program instructors and staff. The orientation complements course content outlined below.

What course is being offered and what will I learn?

This summer’s course is “Taking B[L]ack History” (under ARTS 130). Among other things, the course will examine identity, power and position, colonization and its historic and contemporary effects, the histories of slavery in the Americas and its effects and iterations through time, migration and immigration, Blackness and Black power, whiteness and white supremacy, activism, Pan Africanism, Afrofuturism, and more.

What academic supports can I access?

Many first-year students arrive at university with academic challenges they did not expect to face. Writing academic papers is a big one. Instructors and teaching assistants are there to help and Waterloo also has peer tutoring through the Writing & Communication Centre.  We will also do short skill-building exercises in class around notetaking, research skills, library skills and tools that making referencing seamless. The whole program will also focus on perhaps the most important skill set of all – critical thinking. 

What employees will be involved in the program?

Each section will be led by an instructor and a teaching assistant (a University of Waterloo student in their fourth year of a bachelor’s program or in a Master’s program). We will also have a variety of guest speakers with a range of experiences and areas of expertise with whom you will be invited to engage.  

What value does the course have when I successfully complete it?

The course being offered this summer – “Taking B[L]ack History” – is a 0.5-unit-weight course (the equivalent of a normal term course at Waterloo, offered over seven weeks instead of the normal 12 weeks). If successful, you will have the opportunity to earn this 0.5 unit which can be applied towards a degree program at Waterloo or is transferable to other post-secondary institutions. That means that if you decide to go on to post-secondary study at a college or university, you can count this course toward your future degree or diploma.

The course also offers students an opportunity to experience university in a safe, supportive environment. It is our hope that you will experience a level of engagement and excitement about learning that will fuel your thinking about life pathways you may consider as a young adult.  

What should I expect from my participation in the SPU program?

If admitted to the program, you will be enrolled as a University of Waterloo student. You will be given a student identification number, a student email account, and have access to services offered by the University to support your success. You will also have access to resources, such as the University’s online digital library, Zoom, Office 365, and other tools that are often used in post-secondary studies.