News & Updates

Empowerment Squared’s School Readiness Program Formally Launches

Aug 8, 2022 | News & Updates

On Thursday, August 4, 2022, Empowerment Squared formally launched its School Readiness Program with a knowledge sharing event hosted at the Hamilton Public Library, supported by Ontario Trillium Foundation, Hamilton Community Foundation, United Way of Halton & Hamilton, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, and Wilfred Laurier University.

The School Readiness Program is a systems level innovation with the goal to help newcomer and racialized children and youth in Hamilton navigate and succeed in Hamilton’s education system, whilst coping with issues such as racial discrimination, cultural differences, language barriers, pre- and post-migration trauma, inter-generational trauma, mental health difficulties, and other hurdles that make graduating and proceeding forward in their education more challenging.

This 5 year pilot project began with 2 years of intensive research facilitated by the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton (SPRC Hamilton). SPRC Hamilton completed an in-depth literature review and community consultations with students of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), parents, educators, and community members to learn what best practices and models would be most effective for the School Readiness Program, and also what changes in the education system would contribute to better outcomes for newcomer and racialized students.

To open the event, Paul Takala, CEO and Chief Librarian of the Hamilton Public Library (HPL), brought greetings on behalf of HPL and shared how important it is for community organizations and individuals to work together to create a future that is more just and where there is shared prosperity for everyone.

A panel discussion was held to discuss the role that Empowerment Squared, SPRC Hamilton, and HWDSB have played in the research, design and implementation of the program.

To begin the conversation, Kim Martin, Executive Director of SPRC Hamilton, shared some of the recommendations from the research findings. She highlighted the need for the School Readiness Program to be embedded into the community to ensure long term success and that there needs to be more awareness in the community about the barriers that racialized children and youth face.

Leo Nupolu-Johnson, Executive Director of Empowerment Squared, shared that a systems level project like the School Readiness Program helps ensure that there are sufficient resources to provide needed interventions on a continuous basis. It will also ensure that the interventions provided are culturally relevant and that they are embedded in the education ecosystem so that families, children, and youth see it as a part of their educational journey.

Sue Dunlop, Interim Director of Education for HWDSB, emphasized the school board’s responsibility in responding to the recommendations outlined in the research, which includes working with organizations like Empowerment Squared to bring about systemic change in the school system. She discussed how the school board is also working diligently to actively respond to the feedback from the community in response to Safe Schools and Human Rights and Equity policies, with the goal of gaining the trust of the community so that newcomer families can confidently engage with the school system, which she believes is at the heart of successful outcomes for newcomer children and youth. 

To wrap up the event, Empowerment Squared presented the first graduates of the Empowerment Squared Leaders In Training @ Empowerment Squared (ELITE) program with certificates of completion. Over the course of 2 weeks in the summer, the youth received training in topics such as teamwork, communication, advocacy and goal setting. They also had an opportunity to use the skills they learned by sharing their knowledge through a series of workshops for their peers. Our first cohort will continue to develop as leaders with the support of the Empowerment Squared Team and will be invited to join the first Empowerment Squared Youth Leadership Team – launching in 2023.

Elite Youth Participant Henry Akporhonor receives certificate of completion from the Executive Director, Leo Nupolu Johnson.

If you missed the event and would like to watch the video please click on the following link: School Readiness Program – Official Launch and Research Presentation

If you would like to read the report, click here.

If you would like to know more about the School Readiness Program, please call 905-393-5370 or email