Igniting Potential: Role Model Moms Post-Secondary Academy
It’s incredible to see how big ideas can come from tiny, unlikely places. “Maybe our students could come for a tour sometime?” This small request, made offhand in a phone conversation about another topic, planted the seeds for what has grown into an event that supports and encourages mothers from low-income backgrounds in their pursuit of post-secondary education.
The Role Model Moms Post-Secondary Academy event is an example of what can happen between institutions and communities when we work both responsively and collaboratively, and when staff are encouraged to let their talents and passions drive their work. In my role at the Faculty of Medicine, I work with more than 140 community organizations who supervise service-learning placements for our first- and second-year students, including Role Model Moms (RMM), an organization which helps mothers to complete educations which have been interrupted, usually because of family responsibilities. In supportive community classrooms in Jane-Finch & Victoria Village, these dedicated and hard-working women pursue their General Equivalency Diplomas (GEDs), taking the first step towards making the lives they dream of for their families. The women who participate are a diverse group with ambition and determination that is beyond inspiring.
In 2016, a request for a campus tour from the teacher at RMM in Jane-Finch grew into an event which brought 42 moms and their kids to the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. RMM participants met with staff from 12 different University of Toronto faculties and academic units, as well as with student parents and student leaders. Hart House hosted and fed us for the day, Camp U of T staff kept the kids happy and busy, and staff from Humber College, Centennial College, York University, Ryerson University and the City of Toronto also gave presentations. The topics covered ranged from finding support as student parents, financing post-secondary education, and managing logistics such as childcare, part-time work, and housing. Over lunch, we had time to get to know each other and hear about the unique ambitions of each RMM student. In 2017, we welcomed 45 more moms and their kids to a similar event, and hope to welcome even more in 2018.
Staff, student parents and student leaders who participate in the RMM Post-Secondary Academy are all genuinely passionate about widening the welcome we can offer to students whose path to post-secondary is not direct. We come together for this event because we all recognize that education has a unique power to improve outcomes in families for generations. What a true gift it is to share that opportunity with others. We collaborate, doing whatever we’re each best at—organizing lists, putting together presentations, writing—and the knowledge and experience we already have—both professional and personal—to pull together what, for some of our guests, is their first opportunity to set foot on a university campus. Most importantly, though, we try to make it clear that there are friendly, approachable people in our institutions who want to help, and who want to see people succeed.
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