On Friday Feb. 10, the Beating The Odds conference was held in the Turret on the Wilfrid Laurier University Waterloo campus. This event is dedicated to inspiring and educating black high school students in the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge area to pursue post-secondary education.
The conference was created 12 years ago by Laurier alumnus David Green, as there were an alarming rate of high school students in the K-W and Cambridge area who weren’t pursuing a college diploma or a university degree.
A decade ago, statistics quoted that black students had a 70 per cent drop-out rate in the Waterloo region. Currently, the rate holds at 50 per cent.
Abigail Appiahene Afriyie, vice-president of the Laurier Association for Black Students, explained how Green established this conference as a way of promoting higher education through the Laurier community.
“Because he felt like we needed to do something as a Laurier institute to kind of promote higher education,” she said.
The BTO conference, whose theme this year was resilience, also celebrated its twelfth year on Friday. According to Afriyie, she, along with eight other team members, had been planning and organizing this conference since Oct. 2016.
“… There’s a team of eight of us who have been working around the clock to basically find entertainment, speakers, renting out the space and just all the planning that goes [into the event].”
This year, over 120 secondary school students participated in the day-long conference. Students had the opportunity to listen to keynote speakers, as well as participate in a workshop hosted by the Career Centre on resume building and job searching, led by several Laurier alumni community members.
Later in the day, several entertainment acts from around the Greater Toronto Area performed for the students, as well as guests who stopped by the Turret during the day. The acts included Toronto-based dance group Real 3D, a group that hopes to connect those of all backgrounds in order to paint a picture of inclusivity.
RISE, a Scarborough-based community group, also performed during the day. The group is comprised of various artists, activists and revolutionaries who have come together to establish a safe platform for self-expression through performance arts.
“[RISE] basically use art as an expression of your emotions, your life struggles, [etc.],” said Afriyie.
The last act of the conference was Lola Waheed, a Laurier alumna who performed an interactive dance with the students.
All-in-all, Afriyie believes the conference has seen success every year.
This year was no different in terms of educating high school students about what achieving a post-secondary education might mean for them.
“Every year is a success. There’s obviously differences every year, like different things that are always good and bad but I would say this year’s a success.”