St. Robert CHS graduate empowers student voice through the Black Youth Leadership Program, volunteerism and more

When asked what his advice is for younger students, Elijah Gyansa says to “be bold and never let procrastination and fear hinder your potential. Learn to take risks. Learn to get involved. Understand that the worst answer people can give you when you put yourself out there is “no” and those “no’s” are what makes each “yes” even more special.”

Ambitious, determined and full of passion, Elijah, a recent graduate from St. Robert Catholic High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, took his own advice to heart all throughout his high school experience and beyond.

At the young age of 18, Elijah already has an impressive resume. He served on the York Secondary Catholic Presidents’ Council (YSCPC) since Grade 9 and is now acting as Immediate Past President to inspire a new generation to come together and empower student voices.

Elijah is also a graduate of the Black Youth Leadership Program (BLYP) and has since worked his way to become a facilitator and organizer. The program is rooted upon the collaboration of the For Youth Initiative (FYI) and the Institute of Change Leaders (ICL). Elijah says that, “a main aspect of the program, aside from learning how to fight injustices and gathering resources, is to understand the importance of storytelling. In learning the fundamentals of connecting to people through a story, members can build meaningful bonds to make a difference.”

“My involvement with the Black Youth Leadership Program has been a refuge for me amidst the global pandemic. It has given me a feeling of belonging, especially living in an area with few people of colour,” says Elijah. “After completing the program as a participant and becoming a facilitator, I have found my own story, and work to help others discover their own story and use that drive to take action to be the change they need to see.”

Outside of school, Elijah spends much of his time volunteering. “I plan to continue working towards improving housing conditions for homeless youth. Volunteering to me means that constant pursuit of equity, equal rights and opportunities for all. We can all uplift communities marginalized because of socio-economic inequality by working together and being selfless.”

Elijah draws much of his inspiration from his parents who have been a pillar of support in their communities. “Throughout my life, I have not been immune to adversity. In high school, the lack of racial representation motivated me to join my student council, where I ran events and fundraisers to foster inclusivity and community between my peers. However, I would not be who I am today without the support of individuals who invested their valuable time into my well-being. I actively seek to help others because of my pivotal experiences with mentors who believed in me.”

In addition to his advocacy work, Elijah also received more than $40,000 worth of scholarships for his academic excellence and social activism. He will begin his post-secondary education at the University of Toronto’s Life Sciences program. He hopes to pursue a career in medicine, and eventually become a neurosurgeon to support his mission to directly impact the well-being of disadvantaged and marginalized communities. “I know that the career path I have chosen for myself will not be easily attainable, but with a dedication to focus, determination and hardwork, I know that I will succeed.”

York Catholic is proud of you, Elijah!

BYLP will hold a three day online leadership program in February. Black youths between the ages of 15 and 20 may register to participate in the program. Students who register will receive a $85 honorarium for their participation. For more information or to join the BYLP, visit email Breanna Phillip at breanna@foryouth.ca.