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Equity. What does this mean?

By: Lily Viggiano, Project Coordinator HYI

July 22, 2021

Context: This summer, long-time Halton Youth Initiative volunteer Amber Siddiqui is doing her co-op placement in support of HYI. In particular, her efforts are focused on Equity. What does this mean? Her goals for this summer are to lead the Wednesday Equity team, develop an “Build your own Equity team” 101 toolkit, begin planning for a Fall Equity Conference and providing strong support to our HYI Leaders Circle. Whew! Sounds like a lot, but if you have the pleasure of knowing Amber - you know she’s up for the challenge.

Every Tuesday of her placement, Amber and I will be at the Halton Children’s Aid Society (where Our Kids Network has their office) in order to experience a real office setting and to brainstorm these big plans together.

I am beyond thrilled to have Amber step into this role - and look forward to all the great memories and projects on the horizon!

Questions for Amber

What is a SHSM: Social Justice co-op?

The Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program in Social Justice and Community Development gives students an opportunity to specialize, gain qualifications, and plan a career pathway in various areas of the Non-Profit sector while still in high school. I decided on this SHSM as I hope to work in politics and community development as an adult and I would like to build a foundation of social justice and equity in order to succeed in these fields. Each SHSM pathway requires that students complete a minimum of two cooperative education credits in a work placement in the sector: the co-op is essentially designed to give students a “leg-up” to pursue post-secondary opportunities in each of the identified sectors.

What do you hope to learn during your placement and what are some things you’ve learned so far?

Throughout this placement, I hope to learn from Lily Viggiano’s expertise in this field and work together on several equity initiatives. Although doing this work will fulfill a SHSM requirement, it is much more significant to me. As someone who is deeply invested in social justice and equity work, I am ecstatic to have this opportunity to work with adults and professionals who have such fascinating careers and who do such important work across Halton.

Though the process of creating the equity toolkit will require a lot of time and energy, there is so much crucial learning to be had. Designing and producing this toolkit means that students all across Halton will have everything they need to be able to start equity teams at their school or contribute to the already-existing ones. Youth leadership and activism is important--young people have spearheaded a vast majority of the social revolutions that have taken place and are currently taking place worldwide. The equity toolkit will allow for this leadership to continue and to flourish.

While the toolkit will be crafted for the learning of other people, I, myself, will be doing a lot of learning as well. Engaging in meaningful conversations about what it means to be an anti-racist, diving deeper into dismantling white supremacy, and progressing in my journey to be an ally to marginalized individuals and groups are merely a few of the countless lessons I will learn during this co-op. The five weeks I spend this Summer working with Our Kids Network and Lily Viggiano mean more to me than simply a SHSM requirement--I believe that this learning and work will play a pivotal role in my development as a young adult and will be a significant foundation for (what will hopefully be) a successful career in politics and community development.

Why did you choose the Halton Youth Initiative?

I chose to do my co-op with the Halton Youth Initiative due to the fact that I am a long-time volunteer (I started when the Milton Youth Action Team was established in July 2019) and I feel that this placement would be the best way for me to meet all of my learning and personal development goals. I absolutely love working with Lily Viggiano and I am grateful to have her as my mentor this Summer. Additionally, a co-op with the Halton Youth Initiative means that I get to meet even more like-minded volunteers, all with a passion for equity, community, and giving back. I cannot wait to see what we will all accomplish together!

Amber hard at work on the toolkit. Amber outside the Halton Children's Aid Society office.

Lily sitting with the Progress Pride flag and anti-hate signs.

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