Pursuing a university degree can be challenging. York University is fortunate to have many talented and passionate students who excel in their studies. What is truly remarkable about York students is the degree to which they work to give back to their communities, all while attending classes, completing assignments, holding down jobs, and fulfilling a variety of other personal obligations.
This winter, I learned about two truly extraordinary student organizations after they were featured by local media for their creative approaches to the issues of poverty and homelessness in the City of Toronto.
Fix the 6ix
Fix the 6ix is an organization that collects donations of new and partly-used gift cards in donation boxes across York’s Keele Campus, repurposing them to purchase and distribute goods to Torontonians in need.
“This program is completely unique and unparalleled in the non-profit industry—an assistance program that mobilizes resources at no direct cost to the donor. The idea was to offer Toronto a way to give more, while spending less since the donor did not pay for their gift card in the first place.”
– Deanna Lentini, Founding Director, Fix the 6ix
Deanna started this project with seed funding support from the Faculty of Health’s Agents of Change program. She is an active contributor to the University community as a member of Stong College Student Council and as an Orientation Leader.
Fix the 6ix Team Members:
Deanna Lentini – Founding Director, Kinesiology and Health Science
Anoke Dunston – Treasurer, Criminology
Christina Fiorentino – Secretary, English
Justin Manabat – Creative Director, Broadcasting at Seneca at York
Awo Dirie – Volunteer Coordinator, English and Biology double major
Keep Toronto Warm
The main focus of the Keep Toronto Warm initiative is providing necessities to homeless individuals in the City during the winter months. They accept donations to put together Warmth Packages which include thick socks, a beverage gift card, and a warm blanket.
“We are all trying to have meaningful interactions when we are distributing the packages. Since we hand them out in person one at a time, we have an opportunity to connect with the person, ask their names, introduce ourselves and see how they are doing.”
– Omar Salama, Keep Toronto Warm
Keep Toronto Warm received support from York University Residence Life while launching their initiative, and many of the group members are Residence Dons at York.
Keep Toronto Warm Team Members:
Omar Salama – York University/Sheridan College Program in Design
Erica Fearnall – Public Policy Analysis
Dishan Ratnajothi – Schulich School of Business
Katrheena Porcincula – Kinesiology and Health Science
Xiti Naik – Kinesiology and Health Science
It is remarkable what both groups have achieved in such a short amount of time, and each should be congratulated for their passion, initiative and commitment to giving back to their communities. These initiatives are the definition of experiential education, as well as proof of the impact that smart, socially conscious students can have when they put their good ideas into action.