A new sponsorship program has given students a platform to share their ideas and voices on how racism is manifested in their lives and how they see the future.
The inaugural winners of EllisDon’s Alliance of Black Employee Experience and Leadership (ABEEL) Shaping the Future Sponsorship Program were announced in late February. This year’s awards presentation was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students, educators, winners, their families and representatives of the participating school boards gathered online to celebrate the achievements.
Submissions were received from high school students across the country and the ABEEL team narrowed it down five finalists from Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Alberta and British Columbia.
The winners from each city are Northview Heights Secondary school from Toronto; Ecole secondaire publique Louis Riel, Ottawa; Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton; James Fowler High School, Calgary; and City Central Learning Centre in British Columbia.
This is the first national sponsorship program led by the company’s ABEEL group.
“At the start of ABEEL we embarked on a journey to enable Canadian students to illustrate their vision for a community that is more inclusive of the Black experience and without racism,” said Siju Ewhubare, people and culture manager and ABEEL community outreach core leader. “We want to empower the students to rise up and stand proud of who they are and to create pathways for students to reach their full potential and to gain access to boundless opportunities.”
Students were asked to illustrate their vision of “what a world without anti-Black racism looks like” using a medium of their choosing including video, drawings, poems, essays, visual arts or music.
“As we all know, history is written every day and now we give these students, our future leaders, the pens to do so,” said Ewhubare. “To see this idea come to fruition is not only comforting, it’s inspiring. When I sat and reviewed all the submissions received as well as read the responses on how racism has affected mental health, it reinforces the need for a program like this.”
Mental health specialist Joan Manning and retired professional figure skater and TikTok phenomenon Elladj Balde were guest speakers for the event.
The Shaping the Future Sponsorship Program was rolled out in December 2020 across four different schoolboards: Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa and lower mainland British Columbia.
“When I was in high school, I remember wishing I had a mentor in the construction industry to help guide me,” said Denroy Jackson, senior project co-ordinator and ABEEL community outreach core leader. “Now we have been given the opportunity to be that mentor for these students. I am saddened that these students are dealing with the same issues 10 years later, but I am hopeful that together we can be the change and build a brighter future.”
Winning teams from each region will be provided with resources and bursaries as well as access to mentorship opportunities.
“The winner will enrol in an EllisDon-led mentorship program which includes site tours, career path discussions and presentations, access to mentors and other affiliated industry professionals,” said Jackson. “We want to inspire the next generation of our construction leaders.”
The names of the winners were not released due to privacy reasons.
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