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19 Feb 2019

50 Years of Breaking Down the Barriers to Higher Education Featured

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It’s the little program that grew - the roots of The Transitional Year Programme (TYP) at the University of Toronto began in the African Canadian community through two summer programs in 1969 and 1970, and since then, hundreds of graduates have gone onto successful careers in the last 50 years.

“It’s a place where the students learn to use their voice, develop empathy and unlock their imaginations in order to dream something bigger for themselves,” says TYP Registrar Lauriann Wade, “TYP makes excellence accessible.”

TYP is a full-time, eight month access-to-University program and gives those who do not have the formal qualifications – like a high school diploma – intense hands on preparation for entry into post-secondary education. Applicants come from the targeted African-Canadian, Indigenous and LGBTQ communities where finances, family issues or other circumstances beyond their control hindered them finishing high school.

However, the Ontario Progressive Conservative government’s recent move to eliminate free tuition for low-income students will make access to higher education difficult once again for applicants to TYP.

“The majority of TYP students are from lower income backgrounds with a family income below $50, 000,” explains Lance McCready, Director of TYP. “Having a larger percentage of funding coming from loans will undoubtedly create more debt for our students who have fewer financial resources…it can serve as a deterrent for those from lower income backgrounds trying to access post-secondary education.” But McCready stresses that there are many financial assistance options for their students – including a 5 to 7 thousand dollar cheque for completing the program that can go toward any OSAP loans.

Despite the hurdles over the years like this latest one, TYP has a proven track record of success. Rocco Achampong was born in Ghana and came to Canada in 1988 with his parents and four siblings. He entered TYP in 1999 and went on to study history and political science at U of T’s Trinity College. He is now a lawyer who has run for Toronto mayor and city council. Achampong led the legal challenge against Premier Doug Ford’s cutting down of the city’s wards.

And then there is Jandell Nicholas, who went from staffing co-ordinator at an employment agency to earning her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts, Geography and Planning. Nicholas now works as a teaching assistant in the University of Toronto’s department of Geography and Planning and is a published author.

One of the co-founders of TYP is Keren Brathwaite, she was part of a group involved in two community summer programs in 1969 and 1970, that helped a few students prepare for and attend York University.

“Back then we didn’t know about words like accessible,” says Brathwaite. “There were many struggles along the way.” The first program was housed at the Home Service Association on Bathurst Street in Toronto, the second at U of T’s Innis College. This eventually became the base for TYP until it was restructured in 1977 into a separate division within the university. There were a couple of relocations over the years until it found a permanent home at 123 St. George Street.

“We have an open door policy – literally – my office door is always open,” says Wade, “We want students and potential students to feel like they are welcomed and change the messaging of what they may think university is about.”

The programme typically takes between 65 to 75 students a year, but if there is a compelling case there may be room to accept additional applicants. The deadline to apply is March 1st and members from the African-Canadian, Indigenous and LGBTQ communities are strongly urged to apply.  Click here for more details.

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