On Saturday, August 19, the University of Waterloo celebrated the first graduating class of the Sankofa Pathways to University (SPU) pilot program at Federation Hall. This initiative, developed by Jennisha Wilson, Director, Anti-racism unit of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-racism Office in collaboration with the Registrar's Office. The aim of the SPU is to support local Black youth who may be considering university, but because of pervasive systemic oppression, struggle to develop the confidence needed to succeed in these spaces.
These students completed an accelerated seven-week “Taking B(l)ack History,” Arts First course which earned them a half-credit to be used toward future post-secondary studies. The course was developed and taught by Tracy William-Shreve and included several Black guest lecturers (I.e., Desmond Cole, Malachi Malabre, Peter Scott, Destiny Ramos) who provided students with an authentic University experience. Students were expected to adhere to regular attendance guidelines, complete assignments and most importantly, immerse themselves in the University experience.
“Remember how much power you have and remember to be kind to yourself and generous to one another. Celebrate yourselves for completing this program and succeeding with flying colours,” were the encouraging words from Jennisha Wilson, director Anti-racism unit during the convocation ceremony where students received certificates of Participation for this remarkable achievement.
The SPU is one of the recommendations of the President’s Anti-racism Taskforce Report and the Scarborough Charter, which both include strategies to identify and dismantle systemic barriers the Black community faces and empower them to thrive.
“As a signatory to the Scarborough Charter, the University of Waterloo committed to developing programs and initiatives that remove barriers and foster Black thriving,” said Dr. Christopher S. Taylor. “By providing positive experiences to Black youth to increase the likelihood of them participating in post-secondary studies, the Sankofa Pathways to University is creating pathways for Black communities to flourish.”
The SPU students participated in a 7-week intensive program, which included attending the course Monday through Friday from 9-1pm. The class was blended including online and in-person on-campus activities. Thanks to our on-campus partners which include the writing centre, the Student Success Office, Co-operative and Experiential Education, the Visitor’s centre, Athletics centre. The SPU had 8 successful graduates, demonstrating its significant impact and demand from our community.