Growing up in Scarborough with a single mother comes with a lot of stereotypes around who you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to achieve. The SYRC, or the “rep” centre as we affectionately referred to it back in the early/mid 90s, was a place that I could come to for community. A place where I would be encouraged to dream big and boldly. As any group of adolescents, we didn’t always get along but we all knew that we belonged. We did it all from homework, life skills workshops, to planning fundraisers… from movie nights to mock interview sessions and career planning. I’m currently pursuing my PhD at York U. I’ve also achieved as an award-winning columnist, motivational speaker, and equity/human rights educator. Today I co-produce the annual Body Confidence Canada Awards among other self-esteem and empowerment initiatives. “Success” is never easy but it’s necessary! We need to continue to succeed so that today’s youth can see our fierce example and follow suit! The Centre harped on the fact that regardless of our race, class, sex, or geography with the right social supports and attitude we could actualize our ambitions. Yes, some things can lead to challenges…bumps in the road but at the end of the day what is most important is the life you want for yourself and who you align yourself with in order to help you get there! As Black queer feminist scholar Audre Lorde said in her famous quote: “If you do not define yourself for yourself, you will be crunched into other people’s fantasies of you and eaten alive.” I want to thank the SYRC for helping me to define myself for myself. SYRC encouraged us to be excited about our potential, to be prepared for when opportunity knocked, and to be ready to STAND UP! and lead when we were called!
– Jill (Ji!!) Andrew, CYW, BA (Hons.), BEd, MA, PhD(c.), SYRC participant 1991-1995