Unlocking Potential

Written by: Abukar Hassan

Abukar Hassan is a recent university graduate and certified teacher. He grew up attending Derrydown P.S. in Toronto, one of Leacock’s Triangle of Hope partner schools, and has been involved with the Leacock Foundation’s programs for years in the Keele and Finch community, first as a volunteer, and now as a teacher. Recently, Abukar shared his experiences with Leacock’s programming at the Foundation’s 21st Annual Golf Tournament, Dinner, and Silent Auction. He shared with guests and donors how getting involved and giving back to his community in high school ultimately influenced his decision to become a teacher and helped him unlock his potential. Here is what he shared: 

My name is Abukar Hassan and I am an educator with the Toronto District School Board. In June of this year I graduated from the teaching program at Queen’s university and prior to that, I had completed my undergraduate degree in international development studies at York University. As you may or may not know, some societal norms and stereotypes have made my identity and the community I come from, a barrier. I have made it a point to not let these barriers discourage me.  It was my mother who kept both mine and my siblings head held up high. As a single mother she has done an amazing job raising 5 children and putting them all through a post secondary education. My mother is a unique person. She traveled to this marvelous country we call Canada to provide us with a better life. Her journey was not pleasant nor was it planned.

Abukar speaking to dinner guests at Auberge du Pommier

Abukar speaking to dinner guests at Auberge du Pommier

We were forced out of Somalia because of a civil war. Coming to Toronto, my mother was unemployed but remained ambitious. She has always told us that the key to success and happiness was education. Because of that, she invested her time and effort in our education. She volunteered at our schools, got to know the teachers and administration, and made it her number one priority to see us succeed. Her perseverance amounted to her volunteering for 6 years at our elementary school, Derrydown Public School (Keele and Finch). Along with her education back home, she attended adult high school and college. It wasn’t until my youngest sister was in middle school that she attained a position at a teacher at Derrydown Public School.

My mom would always tell us the importance of volunteering and giving back to our community, and with the timely announcement of the Leacock Foundation’s Saturday Morning Program, that’s exactly what we did. It was best for us to give back to a community that supported our growth all along. I started as a volunteer for Derrydown Saturday Program when I was in grade 9. Initially, I thought about being a positive role model to the younger students whose place I was once in. Soon enough, I had realized that I would not only do my best to support the young students, but I found myself learning from the students and the wonderful administrators of the program.

It was when I started University and had the opportunity to be a part of Leacock’s Leap into Literacy Summer Camp, that my journey to become an educator began. Leap Camp has always been a wonderful space to extend the learning abilities of the students it enrolls, as it focuses on both their academic and experiential literacy. Students have the opportunity to be creative in their work and to learn in ways they wouldn’t traditionally. It was during my experiences with the camp that I was able to fully grasp the true meaning of what my mother always told us. I would come home from camp every day and have a new story to share with her. Her take was that this would be my opportunity to not only act as an educator, but also a role model to young minds. This past summer the Leacock Foundation gave me the opportunity of working with the students from the Leap Camp as an official educator. It was the Leacock Foundation and Derrydown Public School that provided me with the platform to make my aspiration of being an educator come to life. For that I would like to say, Thank You! And thank you all for listening to my story.

Posted in Education, Global Perspectives, Leadership, Teaching, Toronto, Volunteering, Youth Empowerment.