Report card: Youth Summer Program 2017: a success!

The Portuguese Canadian History Project (PCHP) had the pleasure and privilege of co-organizing the York University’s Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies program’s 1st Youth Summer Program, titled “The Lusophone World: Global and Local Communities,” which took place between July 10th and 14th. posterTogether with professors Maria João Dodman and Inês Cardoso (Dept. of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics), and Abubacar Fofana León (Harriett Tubman for Research on Africa and its Diasporas & Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean), our lead director Gilberto Fernandes assembled a week-long program of diverse educational activities for students between the ages of 14 and 18 (or grades 9 to 12). Besides the in- and out-of-classroom activities, this program offered free daily breakfast, lunch, and snacks, along with public transit fare for the students. The program was made possible due to the generosity of our sponsors: Manuel da Costa, President of Viana Roofing, Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers, Portuguese Canadian Walk of Fame, and other organizations; Narda Razack, Associate Dean of Global and Community Engagement, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University; Marcie Ponte, Executive Director of the Working Women Community Centre; and the Camões Institute. The organizers are also grateful for the commitment of volunteers Natasha Silvestre, Thiago Fin, Denis Iwamoto, Karen Melo, and Alexandra Cruz, who offered more than five days of work towards making this program a success. We are also grateful for the help given to us by many TDSB and TCDSB teachers and administrators, who helped us advertise our program through their networks and connect directly with students and parents. This initiative would have been impossible without their contributions.

Along with teaching youth about the Lusophone world through activities that mixed learning with recreation, this program aimed to introduce high school students to university life. Most of the 26 students in the program were of Portuguese background, while others were of Angolan, Brazilian, Guatemalan, Filipino, Indian, Irish, Italian, and Vietnamese heritage.

Day one: The Ipanema-born musician Luanda Jones opened the day with some of Brazil’s iconic samba and bossa-nova songs. This was followed by a Portuguese language workshop led by the York University/ Camões Institute Prof. Inês Cardoso. After having lunch at the Underground restaurant, the youth participated in a “meet and greet” session with six Toronto-based lusophone professionals: musician Luanda Jones; CBC Radio producer Debbie Pacheco; community activist Fátima Borges; dancer and choreographer Salomão Almirante; playwright and professor Aida Jordão; and York University historian and professor José Curto.

Day two: Tuesday morning was dedicated to the history of Portuguese colonial encounters in Africa and Brazil, with presentations by York University’s Prof. Maria João Dodman, Prof. José Curto, and the PhD candidate in history Abubacar Léon. In the afternoon, the students were treated to workshops on African dances, led by the teacher and choreographer Pulga Muchochoma; and on Capoeira, led by Hélio de Souza.

Day three: Prof. Gillian McGillivray, of Glendon College (York University), started the third day with a presentation on the history of Brazilian racial policies and identities through the lens of Samba music. She was followed by Andrea da Costa, curator at the Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers, who delivered a presentation on digital news media and how to differentiate between “fake” and “real” news content. This summer program follows several initiatives led by the Portuguese & Luso-Brazilian Studies program designed to highlight innovation, commitment to education, and community empowerment. One of the ways that it promotes student engagement is by offering a free trip to the Azores to the best student in the POR1000 Elementary Portuguese course. During lunchtime, students had the opportunity to hear from Christian Araújo, one of the past winners of the Portuguese Gives You Wings award, sponsored by Azores Airlines. In the afternoon, the students learned how to film high quality footage using their smartphones and inexpensive materials in a workshop led by Bruno Véras, PhD student in history at York University.

Day four: On Thursday morning, students were offered two workshops. At the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, York University historian Gilberto Fernandes and head archivist Michael Moir led an archival research workshop by way of a “scavenger hunt,” using the PCHP’s collections. Meanwhile, at Founders College, students enjoyed a theatre workshop led by the actor, director, and playwright Aida Jordão. After lunch, students chose between playing basketball, visiting the Career Centre, or practicing their group projects. In the afternoon, the renowned painter Auerbach Vieira led a workshop on abstract painting, which prompted the students to create their own artworks using watercolours.

Day five: On the last day of the program, Gilberto offered a shorter version of the PCHP’s walking tour “Portuguese Toronto: Early Decades” in Kensington Market. The students were able to explore the history of Portuguese immigration to Toronto on foot and through the aid of our digital companion on izi.TRAVEL. After this tour, we were received by Andrea da Costa at the Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers. There, the students watched a series of animated videos about the history of Portuguese immigration to Canada, produced by Andrea. After this screening, the groups prepared their presentations that they delivered at the closing ceremony, which followed. Our sponsors Manuel da Costa and Narda Razack addressed the crowd of students, parents, volunteers, teachers, and local lusophone media with positive messages focusing on the value of education, personal growth, and gratitude. Maria João, Inês, and Gilberto hosted the rest of the ceremony, which included opening and closing performances by Luso-Can Tuna; the students’ group presentations; and a brief presentation by the 15-year-old women’s right activist and program-participant Chiara Picão, about her charitable initiative Literally Climbing Mountains for Girls Education.

The first youth summer program of York University’s Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian Studies program was a great success! Besides advancing their knowledge about the Lusophone world and university life, the students left with new friends, memories, and references that will hopefully be advantageous to them in the future. The organizers too learned a great deal from preparing and running this program, and extended their network within Toronto’s school boards, which they look forward to building on in the future.

Until next year.

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