Why I decided to run for TDSB Trustee in York West

by Matias de Dovitiis

I registered to run for the Toronto District School Board in York West, because this is my home. It is where I live and work and it is where I want to make a difference.

Over a decade of community building has taught me the value of hard work and the importance of giving back. Running for Trustee is an important personal commitment to my community and it is a challenge that I hope to turn into opportunities for many of our students.

As a first generation Canadian, raised by a working single parent, I share many of the experiences of many in our city. A good quality education is the only thing that allowed me to find a path to personal accomplishment. I think we owe it to the next generation to give them the same opportunities and that is why I am now a trustee candidate.

In York West we need to do better for our students. They are not getting the same quality education that other students are getting and I want to change that. We have greater needs, but fewer resources to abate those needs. These structural inequities need to be challenged. The waste in the system needs to be reinvested in the classroom.

To my mind, education and the access to quality education is the thing that has helped to build this country. In Toronto, we have over 150 years of history providing public education. We have a public education system that is older than almost every other place on Earth. This makes Toronto one of the leaders in the world. This helped to make this country a place of greater equality and a better place to live. Now the system is being eroded by mismanagement at the same time that its resources are reduced.

We need change to give young people better chances in life.

We need to go give our students a sound education that teaches them the skills and work ethic that will lead to personal success, but we also need them to participate and take pride in the community.

This is why I have spent much of my free time organizing after school programs, bursaries, scholarships, tree plantings, mentoring programs and supporting a myriad of projects and activities that foment access to education and civic engagement by our youth. We need to open more doors for them.

I have carried out this type of work for years. Now I want to do it at the school board to make more of a difference. It is important work. I hope to be up to the task.


Students leaders celebrated for their success

Over the past year, I had an opportunity to work in a number of schools. Through my work with the City and the Toronto District School Board I was able to help organize a number of events, such as tree plantings and community clean ups.

I have also worked with over a dozen schools in the Downsview area. In this time I’ve had the chance to see the diversity of talent and the latent opportunity that many of our students have. It also an eye opening experience that saw me discover the needs many students face in the classroom. There is nothing worse that wasted talent and opening doors for young people is the only remedy for wasted lives. With this in mind, I started a $100 bursary for high achieving graduating elementary school students, $150 for middle school graduates and $250 for those graduating from high school. The Downsview community needs to celebrate its successes more often. It has been over a year in the making, but it finally came through in June. I was able to hand a bursary to two dozen graduating students from grades 5, 8 and 12. Frankly, the work I do is a privilege. Public service is a vocation more than a job and it has some very rewarding moments. It was great to be able to celebrate students for their individual success, but it was well worth doing for me too. It was a way to give back to my community. The students that received the Leadership Award, were students that not only excelled academically, but that also fostered a better school community:

“The students have demonstrated leadership in the school by showing a love of learning and have led other students to improve their academic achievements. They have also created a more inclusive, welcoming place in the school community by their active participation in extra-curricular activities.”

By Matias de Dovitiis

Program helps Spanish-speaking youth get back to school

By Matias de Dovitiis

Teach 2 Learn is a fabulous program that was born in the classrooms of Downsview. It helps Spanish-speaking students find a better path to success.

The program started five years ago as an attempt to reduce the very high dropout rate of Spanish-speaking students. Parents got together to work on ways to help their own children, but the problem was very big and it required a great deal of work.

Since then, countless meetings, workshops, tutoring classes, field trips and forums have helped hundreds of students and parents find guidance and support to navigate the school system.

It has also helped students who have dropped out to get back to school.

To see the plays the students have put together, the classrooms full of students receiving math help or the parents in workshops learning the ropes of the educational system is to understand both the potential out there and the problems that need fixing.

“When we started we thought maybe we could just point students to other programs. Then we realized that the program was much bigger,” said Pilar Gonzalez, one of the program’s founders and coordinators. “Tutoring was not enough. The parents needed help. The students needed help. We started this voyage with an objective, but like a work of art, you never know what your final destination is.”

The name was coined by one of the program’s first volunteers, a retired teacher named Ana Schillac. She was training a new set of tutors when she told them, “In order to teach you must learn.”

The principle behind it is that anybody can learn and we can all be teachers. Students in the program not only receive help, but they also learn by teaching others.

Once children and youth learned to become engaged students the rest is much easier. Teach 2 Learn uses a number of different tools to engage students, from tutoring to artistic development. Most importantly, the programs are free to all participants.

Teach 2 Learn is by all means a success story and it has been my pleasure for the last five years to work along a great dedicated team of volunteers and parents.

The program currently helps 33 students with tutoring twice a week and 10 to 20 parents  participate in weekly workshops and the youth program has more than 20 participants each week.

Downsview is a community created by waves of immigrants that have arrived here over time and have often struggled to adapt to the system. This is just one of the many stories that have weaved our community together.

The pathway to success is always different for each and every one of us, but there is nothing like wasted opportunity. In Teach 2 Learn at least, dozens of students have a new pathway.

For more information go to www.teach2learn.ca