York-TD Community Engagement Centre Celebrates 2015-2016 Catalyst Grants

Small catalyst grants are one of the ways that the York-TD Community Engagement Centre (CEC) is working to deepen University-Community partnerships in Jane Finch. Now in its second year, the Catalysts Grants awarded $25,000 among 6 partnership projects that included projects promoting access to post-secondary education, supporting community-based research and creating experiential education opportunities for students. On April 7th, York staff and faculty joined community members and grant recipients in celebrating the success of this past year’s project.

“The CEC is a great asset to the Jane-­‐Finch community and we believe that the Catalyst Grant
initiative has built successful partnerships between York University, local organizations, and community members”, said Richard DeGeatano, resident member of the CAPG project. He went on to reflect that “unlike past community-­‐university projects, this grant program has helped eliminate the many administrative barriers that community members or organizations often face when working with the university.”

“We are starting to get community engagement right”, said Vice-Provost Academic Dr. Alice Pitt. “We are deepening relationships and starting to see the potential for real community impact when we are intentional about working together.”

The projects for 2015-16 were:

STEM Pro Youth Series – Parents Advocating Student Success and York Science Engagement
This workshop series explored and discovered new concepts and skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math through 3 fun, interactive workshops at the CEC and in the community serving 90 children.

Community Design and Planning Workshop
– Community Action Planning Group of York West and Faculty of Environmental Studies
This workshop brought over 85 residents together to give input into the design of the Metrolinx Maintenance and Storage Facility to be located in Jane Finch, so that land use planning is done in a manner that better serves the economic and social needs of the community.

Mediation Clinical Intensive Program – St. Stephen’s Conflict Resolution & Training and Osgoode Mediation Program
While the two groups have worked together for about 3 years, the Catalyst Grant gave them the opportunity to begin to expand their services to offer a conflict mediation clinic in the Black Creek Community.

International Development Practitioner’s Workshop Project
– Capacity Wise and International Development Studies
A mini conference was put on during reading week and attended by 30 undergrad and graduate students who learned first-hand about non-profit organizations, including operational and strategic functions. Looking at both local and international examples, the project helped students develop a deeper understanding of NGO and non-profit organizations locally and globally. As a result of the learning opportunity, a number of York students have already connected with local organizations for further opportunities.

Health, Fitness, and Physical Activity for Children of the Black Creek Community – Department of Kinesiology Health Science and Driftwood Community Centre
This project pulled together the body of knowledge on youth activity levels collected through the Kin Kids program, an initiative to promote a healthy active lifestyle with children. This info will be used to plan and implement more effective local programs and services that include body composition, muscle development and cardiovascular health measures.

Creative Art Therapies for Stress and Mental Health – Black Creek Youth Crew and the Art Gallery of York U.
Three workshops provided a platform for 60 youth in finding positive ways to talk about and deal with issues unique to local youth, including mental health, trauma and media stigma. The workshops engaged local artists as facilitators and used various artistic mediums, including spoken word, painting and singing. Participating youth came from various neighbourhoods within the Black Creek Community.

While the Catalyst Grants program offers modest seed funding and a streamlined process that brings community and university collaborators together, the results of such collaborators are often more than originally anticipated. Research findings have been shared with decision makers to influence future planning decisions, new connections have led to future collaborations and the experience of working together help to build strong ties between York and the community.

For more information about our next round of Catalyst Grants or how you can get involved with the York-TD Community Engagement Centre, contact yorkcec@yorku.ca