Students, staff at Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute in Dorset Park working to foster inclusivity

Located in the heart of Scarborough’s Dorset Park neighbourhood, Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute is an important community hub. Nick Westoll has more on the efforts to boost inclusivity and make school welcoming for all.

Located next to McGregor Park community centre and library, Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute (WCCI) joins with the two facilities to make the biggest community hub in Dorset Park.

Day in and day out, staff and students at WCCI are working together to foster an inclusive environment.

One of the groups working toward that goal is the Black Students Association. It’s major initiative at the moment is the Black Brilliance Conference, which will be held on April 25 at the school. Students across the city are coming for student-led workshops and the conference’s focus is Afro-futurism.

It’s also an opportunity to “have fun, have music, and just honestly get to embrace each other because there are not many times that us as schools get to come together as Black students,” Kayla Lawrence, a Grade 11 student and the association’s president, said.

“It’s been great to connect with people who look like me, who feel the same as me, who feel like sometimes that were not represented enough,” Maiya Flowers, a Grade 9, student said.

Princess Edogiawerie is the assistant curriculum leader of the Leonard Braithwaite Program at WCCI. It’s the first Africentric secondary program in Canada.

“(Students are) learning the provincial curriculum through diverse perspectives of the African diaspora, so it’s connecting students with their culture and centring them in their learning,” she said.

Examples of teaching the curriculum in a culturally relevant way include reading Afrocentric texts or looking at technology that’s used to generate electricity in Africa and other parts of the world.

“My pitch to anybody who is thinking about enrolling in the Leonard Braithwaite Program is what you are learning and how much do you want to be associated with teachers and peers who look like you and understand you? How much do you want to be exposed to opportunities that are not available in any other program that can set you ahead and prepare you for success in the future?” Edogiawerie said.

She also talked about the importance of staff being role models for students. She and other teachers are on a mission to help children further embrace and celebrate Black culture.

“I never had a black teacher growing up, so that’s one of the reasons why I went into teaching because I recognize the lack thereof in the school system,” she said.

“My office is kind of like a safe space for them. Sometimes they eat lunch in there, sometimes we do different activities together and overall it feels good for me knowing that what I didn’t have when I was in high school they have access to now because there are a lot of educators who are trying to address this lack of representation.”

But in the halls of Winston Churchill, students of all backgrounds and abilities are cherished.

The school also has the Autism Spectrum Disorder Hub for students. It has dedicated spaces and every day of the week there are different activities to do over lunch, such as wellness days and days to practice conversation skills. The hub works to support students in many aspects.

Evans Hyppolite is a student at the school and he said the lunch programming is a highlight of his day since he can speak freely with teachers and friends.

“Getting to know people is really, really tough in high school. What’s got to be my favourite part about hanging out with friends is that we always get to support each other, ” he said.

“Growing up with autism [didn’t] really have much effect on me. It makes me grow stronger. It’s like a superpower,” said Hyppolite.

Sirya Sarath and Anahid Ashraf, who are also members of the program, told CityNews how happy they are to be there.

“It’s the best program in the whole entire world … I want to become more sociable and I love making new friends,” Sarath said

“I have met a lot of people … teachers give me a lot of support and I don’t like being in a big mainstream classroom with less teachers and more students,” Ashraf added.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today