Toronto·Jane and Finch

3 Jane and Finch students on what helped them find academic success

CBC Toronto spoke with three young men about their approach to schooling and what's worked for them. 

For one student, it was finding a school outside the neighbourhood, but mentorship helps, too

Jane and Finch students face academic barriers. Here's how some are overcoming them

7 months ago
Duration 2:24
While some students leave the area in search of better schools, others praise mentors for keeping them on the right track. CBC Toronto's Dale Manucdoc heard about their experiences.

School is back in session and in the Jane and Finch area students continue to face more challenges than others in the city.

Data from the Toronto District School Board's Learning Opportunities Index, which tracks what it calls "external challenges" affecting student success, features a number of Jane and Finch's school high on its list. 

But despite those challenges — ranging from growing up in lower-income households to having parents without high levels of education — many students in the area have found their own paths to success. CBC Toronto spoke with three young men about their approach to schooling and what's worked for them. 

Taking the long way

Jeffrey Osaro, a 12th grader, said he's seen some in his community take shortcuts. He said he believes taking the long road "leads you to great opportunities."

Osaro literally takes a longer road to get his education. He attends Northview Heights Secondary School, outside of the Jane and Finch community where he lives and attended elementary school. 

He's now president of the student council, the founder of the school's Black Student Alliance and serves as an elected student trustee for the Toronto District School Board.

Osaro said expanding his boundaries helped him get to where he is today.

"As soon as I got into Northview, I saw the opportunities coming at me." He says he knew he wanted to go to school outside the ward from an early age and filled out applications to advanced programs in Grade 8.

"I'm trying to show both myself and other people who live in this neighbourhood that there are ways to explore and branch out," he said of the opportunities that have come his way.

"Now that I'm here as a student trustee, I will make sure that it comes to neighbourhoods like mine."

Have a mentor

Jaivon Ollivierre, 17, admitted he was having attitude issues in Grade 8 before a youth worker and other community leaders helped him focus on his goals.

"Now I'm looking at things differently in life. I actually want to go to college" he said. 

Last spring, he graduated from Westview Centennial Secondary School and is enrolled in George Brown College's child and youth care program.
"Having a mentor isn't weak," he said.

Jeffrey Osaro is student trustee for the TDSB. He is giving an interview to CBC News about his path to academic success. He goes to Northview Heights Secondary School outside of his ward where there are better opportunities.
12th grade student Jeffrey Osaro sits on the bleachers at Westview Centennial Secondary School. (CBC)

"Most Black individuals around here would think it would be weird or weak to look up to someone or to have them steer you on the right path. But I would say it helps a lot."

Ollivierre credits four local mentors with his success, including Joseph Smith, an organizer at local non-profit Generation Chosen, whose mission is to enhance the emotional intelligence of young people in underserved communities.

Search for scholarships

Deluxson Yogarajah, 24, is a mentor to his two younger brothers and other young people in the community.

"We have to rely on the advice of others to show us how to make our way to that end result," he said.

Yogarajah is a youth worker at the Jane and Finch Centre. He too graduated from Westview Secondary and then completed his degree in criminology at York University in 2019. It was largely made possible through several scholarships.

"That's how I was able to pursue these dreams," he said.

It's a key message he shares with the youth he works with, "If you can't afford this, there's ways to get to it."

Yogarajah received scholarships and bursaries from York University, Law in Action Within Schools and Geoffrey and Edith Wood Memorial Scholarship totalling more than $30,000 to help fund his education.

"Education is not something that we should force on everyone, but it's a great tool if you know how to use it," he said.

Yogarajah is planning to go back to school to pursue a law degree. In the meantime, he said he loves giving back to the community that raised him.

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Dale Manucdoc is a reporter with CBC Toronto. He grew up in Markham and has lived in many different Toronto communities over the last 15 years. He's passionate about telling stories through an inclusive and authentic lens, sports and covering the opioid crisis.