By Sara Laux
“The connections between McMaster and Empowerment Squared run deep. Very deep.
The community organization started life in 2007 as an MSU club founded by political science student Leo Johnson. Before coming to Hamilton, he had spent eight years in refugee camps after fleeing civil war in Liberia in 1998.
He began Empowerment Squared as a way to help marginalized children and youth, many of them newcomers to Canada, achieve success through mentorship, educational support, access to information about postsecondary education, and community activities like sports and recreation. And that’s what it’s continued to do for 13 years.
“Since we’ve started, we’ve supported more than 2,000 young people, helping them to meet their educational goals, whether that’s attending college or university, or accessing the trades,” says Joana Fejzaj, Empowerment Squared’s manager of community development and partnerships, and a McMaster graduate from the School of Social Work.
Now, because of the pandemic, the programming – academic mentoring, which supports students as they do homework, and a program to get kids moving at home – has now moved completely online. That’s presented a particular challenge, says Fejzaj, since they’ve found that the homework club now needs two mentors per student to make sure everyone gets the support they need.
She’s hoping folks will step up to meet that need.
Fejzaj is looking to the McMaster community to help a growing list of young people waiting to receive support. Right now, volunteers are most needed to help out with Empowerment Squared’s Zoom-based academic mentoring, or their E-Movement exercise program.”