On a sunny June afternoon, a meeting room at the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto was transformed into a graduation ceremony honouring some very special students.

The Toronto-based Ambassador Program is designed to support vulnerable youth across the city who are struggling to complete their high school education within the traditional education system. The majority of Ambassador students have dropped-out of other schools due to a variety of destructive factors. Run as a part of the Pape Adolescent Resource Centre (PARC) and in partnership with Toronto Public Health and Central Toronto Youth Services, the Ambassador Program offers a safe and stable learning environment that encourages positive peer relationships, as well as valuable life skills that include cooking and time management. Students also participate in SpeakOut sessions in which they share their personal life stories and experiences with other young people. In doing so, they emphasize that every young person can receive, and deserves to receive, an education. With most Ambassador students working towards the completion of high school credits, a portion also go on to pursue post-secondary education. And, for the first year ever, the graduates of this program – many of whom had already bounced between multiple educational institutions, and even incarceration – were recognized for their achievements in a big way.

Some Facts About The Ambassador Program:

  • 250 underserved young people have attended the Ambassador Program since 2000.

  • Average grade of 82.5% being achieved across all standardized subjects.

  • Ambassador students participate in speak outs to Grade 7 and 8 schools throughout the GTA.

  • Students can now participate in the program up to age 25.

  • All students are participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Program, a youth leadership program encouraging young people to build personal and professional skills and engage in community service.

With Michael “Pinball” Clemons as the Master of Ceremonies, the event gave Ambassador students the opportunity to wear a graduation cap and gown as they were recognized for their high school completion/other academic achievements, along with credits earned and other awards of distinction. Sharing words of encouragement and advice, Michael Clemons greeted each graduate and student on stage together with Ambassador Program coordinators and educators, Geoffrey Newland and Julie Shaw. There was hardly a dry eye in the house as students, one by one, were recognized for their achievements and shared their personal stories of struggle and triumph.

Check out some photos from the ceremony:


Interested in supporting the Ambassador Program and its students? Click here.

About The Author

The Children's Aid Foundation of Canada funds programs to help Canada's most vulnerable children and youth, those who have experienced or are at risk of abuse and neglect, overcome the obstacles in life that prevent them from reaching their full potential. We are committed to giving ongoing support to those who need it most.

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