New Black Student Success Network about creating a community that works for everybody
For Masini McDermott, the purpose of a Black Student Success Network (BSSN) isn’t to establish an exclusive club. Rather, it’s about creating a George Brown community that works for everybody.
Faced with troubling retention rates and a void of directed outreach for black students at George Brown College (GBC), the tourism and hospitality student decided to take action. Now spearheading the BSSN as a program adviser and project ambassador, McDermott and her team have worked hard to promote the initiative.
“Just leaving the impression that here’s an opportunity for you and we’re going to help you get involved, be engaged, get resources you’re paying for that you don’t realize you’re paying for, or don’t know where to find them,” she said.
The BSSN aims to be a safe space for black students to reach out to, whether they’re in need of connection to various George Brown services such as tutoring and counselling, or simply looking for social engagement.
“It’s not all about the academics; it’s also about creating a great college experience. Of course class is important, but it’s also important to create solid relationships outside of the classroom,” said McDermott.
The goal is to develop an environment where black students are informed, empowered and better able to succeed within the George Brown community. According to student life coordinator Andria Lewis-Alexander, the initiative’s timing is crucial.
“Instead of fixing the issue, we dance around it, we talk around it, but we haven’t really been doing anything about it. This is a proactive way to assist students, to give them information, to provide them with the resources they need.”
Lewis-Alexander describes McDermott as passionate about success, and believes that her drive and abilities are needed to push this initiative forward. Volunteerism at George Brown is nothing new for McDermott, having previously served as president of the Mosaic Club, which focuses on promoting diversity through events and activities.
McDermott is also an up-and-coming artist. A graduate of Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, she has launched her own performance series called One Night Only Live, participated in Fringe Festival productions such as 2015’s Summerland and 2016’s The Fence and has assisted elementary school students with their own musical theatre projects.
The same desire to push boundaries and seize the day which creates her artistry now finds itself applied to the BSSN.
“I realized that with BSSN, instead of waiting for an opportunity like Black Student Success (a forum hosted by the college in the spring), why don’t we create something, why don’t we create an opportunity for students to create their (own) opportunity to be greater.”
McDermott credits a number of folks with helping to nurture her various traits. She ascribes her passion to her mother, her creativity to teachers at Wexford such as Ann Merriam and Charlie Agathocleous.
It’s with an affable confidence that McDermott attributes her drive to herself, a drive dedicated to making the BSSN a great success story.
“Even if I have to pass on the torch, I want to know that I have a torch that’s flaming bright and strong, the momentum is still going and I’m going to leave somewhat of a legacy behind”.