This past year, York created the Black Excellence York University, otherwise known as the BE YU, which is a program specifically catered to Black students at York. The BE YU is part of York’s anti-black racism efforts, and has taken off without a hitch so far, with over 100 students currently involved in the program.
While the York University Black Student Association (YUBSA), which was formed in 1996 as a result of the combination of three other Black-centred student associations, provides a social space for Black students to engage with each other, the BE YU focuses mostly on academic and career support, while still entertaining the idea of having social support for Black students.
According to their website, the BE YU “provides Black students with the support they need to transition to university and maximize their student experience on the path to graduation. Through workshops, specialized events, mentoring, academic advising, and more, BE YU is designed to champion the academic, professional, and personal success of York’s Black student community.”
With this in mind, Black students at York who are a part of the BE YU are given the resources and mentorship necessary to hopefully make them (as the name suggests) excellent.
In a statement provided by Brian Poser, director of Academic Success and Transition Programming in the department of student success, they described the BE YU as just one of many programs at York dedicated to serving Black students.
“BE YU helps students to see attendance at university as a viable pathway, ensure they have access to dedicated resources at York in which they see themselves reflected, and bring them into full participation in a community in which Black excellence in a variety of forms is intentionally and vividly celebrated.”
When speaking to Kobe Cargill, a third-year actuarial science student who has been dedicating his time to serve as a peer mentor for the BE YU, he spoke positively of his experiences so far.
“As a peer mentor, I have had conversations with students, faculty members, and staff around their ideas, views, and their own experiences. It has been a fulfilling experience as I, myself, enjoy conversation and enjoy playing a role in the personal and professional development of my friends, acquaintances, and wider community members.”
Stephen Aboagye, the project coordinator of Access & Inclusion Initiatives, who is currently serving as one the coordinators of BE YU, was also delighted to speak about his experiences so far with this initiative.
“To me, BE YU has been part of the conversation and dialogue around the importance of intentional programming in response to Black students’ academic success. BE YU continues to emerge and burgeon with the support of our campus partners who are keen on making success visible and making Black excellence the norm.”
“Through various initiatives facilitated and delivered already, the program is uniquely positioned to create and sustain conditions in which Black students are seen, supported, and celebrated in ways that promote a sense of inclusive excellence on campus,” Aboagye continues.
So far, BE YU has held a host of workshops and networking events for Black students. Along with giving some upper-year students the chance to be mentors and connect with first-year students, BE YU has also created an eClass that serves as an information hub and resource centre.
Shaniah Hutchinson, a second-year sustainable environmental management major, had not heard of the BE YU program before speaking with Excalibur, but upon learning about the services it offered, they agree that it acts as a good step forward. “From what I’ve read and heard so far, this is definitely an excellent initiative taken by various Black peers to help other Black students adjust to university life and quite possibly allow them to grow stably in an environment that they may not be used to.”
Hutchinson also mentions that it would be important— as well as greatly appreciated — to create another safe (albeit virtual) space on campus for Black students as they aren’t very common.
Having another space for Black students on campus has strengthened the Black community at York, and this is only the beginning. The future looks bright for the BE YU program, with some bigger initiatives in the early stages of planning in order to expand the services that it currently offers.
“Plans for career and graduate and professional school planning are part of a forthcoming collaboration that includes student input, as well as collaboration with Student Community & Leadership Development, Career Education & Development, and BE YU,” says Poser.
It is safe to say that as the BE YU program continues to grow and improve, the possibilities for its student mentors, mentees, and members is limitless.