We all share a responsibility to help Charley, Josh and all of Hamilton’s kids dream big and realize their full potential. In 25 years time, Hamilton shoudl have the most highly skilled and best-educated workforce in Canada. Thanks to the Hamilton Boys and Girls Clubs for introducing us to the dynamic duo.
I had the honour of speaking at The City of Hamilton’s Our Future Hamilton: Communities in Conversation event earlier today. I took the opportunity to talk about Charley and Josh and announce Mohawk’s newest project aimed at improving access to post-secondary education – City School at Mohawk.
I’d like to introduce you to a pair of 10-year-olds.
Charley wants to be a scientist when she grows up.
Josh plans to be an archaeologist.
Charley and Josh have three things in common, beyond being adorable and members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hamilton.
In 25 years time, there’s a good chance Carley and Josh will be working, raising families and like all of you, giving back to their community.
So the conversations we have today will help define their future.
Our vision for Hamilton will be their reality.
We owe it to Charley and Josh to get it right.
Here’s the second thing Charley and Josh have in common.
They live in one of Hamilton’s Code Red neighbourhoods.
These are priority neighbourhoods where high school graduation and postsecondary participation rates are below the provincial average and lower than other parts of Hamilton.
These are neighbourhoods where employment rates and health outcomes are also below average.
These are neighbourhoods with high levels of poverty and a tyranny of low expectations.
The playing field is not level for Charley and Josh.
Yet here’s the third thing that Charley and Josh have in common. It’s also the most important. At Mohawk, we believe it to our core.
Charley and Josh have unlimited potential. They have as much potential as kids living in any neighbourhood in Hamilton. Charley and Josh are just as talented and remarkable.
Our job is to make sure their promise and potential is not wasted.
Hamilton will not move ahead if kids like Charley and Josh are left behind.
We all have a part to play in giving every child in every neighbourhood an equal shot at realizing their full potential.
At Mohawk, we’re working hard to become even more accessible to more Hamiltonians. We’re helping to ignite and then build the dream of postsecondary education in young people from priority neighbourhoods. We’re making that dream a reality by removing barriers and marking a clear path to college. We don’t believe that postal codes are destiny.
For the past five years, teams of Mohawk staff have been welcomed into high schools and community centres. We’ve connected with thousands of young people and their families. Many of those young people are now students and future ready graduates.
We’re about to take community engagement to a whole new level. We’ve just introduced a major project called City School by Mohawk. We opened our doors this month at the Eva Rothwell Resource Centre in North Hamilton. To be the best of our knowledge, no other college in Ontario is making the same long-term commitment to the communities they serve.
We are going to offer college courses, workshops, services and mentoring programs. What we offer will be decided in close consultation with the neighbourhoods we serve. And this will be a long-term commitment. We are in this for the long haul.
City School at Mohawk also bridges a divide. In many priority neighbourhoods, Mohawk seems a world away. This will help close that gap. We’ll demystify the college experience. We’ll show young people that there’s a place for them at Mohawk. We’ll help them get there. And we’ll set them up for success.
Our goal is to expand City School at Mohawk to six priority neighbourhoods over the next three years. To do that, we need community partners. We need partners from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Mohawk is ready to do our part on the education front. We need other partners to ensure the kids and families in those neighbourhoods are healthy, well-fed and have a roof over their heads.
Hamilton is big enough that we can do something meaningful. And Hamilton is small enough that we can do it together.
At Mohawk, we believe that we will always do better by working together. We also agree 100 per cent with former U.S. President Harry Truman who said, “it is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
We’re not in this to get credit. We’re not doing this to recruit Charley and Josh although we’d be proud to have them as students in seven years time.
We’re doing this because we believe in the power of education to transform lives, neighbourhoods and entire communities. We see it every day in our halls and classrooms. With City School at Mohawk, we’ll see it in Hamilton’s priority neighbourhoods.
Now education is at its most powerful when young people have big dreams and bold ambitions. Dreams and ambitions are the multiplier. We need to encourage kids like Charley and Josh to set high expectations.
So what will that take? Right now, Hamilton is making a significant investment when it comes to recruiting highly educated young professionals. Like every city, we’re chasing after highly coveted 20-somethings who make up the creative class.
We need to make the same investment when it comes to developing the talent in our own backyard. Nurturing that talent must start now, in year one of Hamilton’s 25-year vision. Our investments need to continue year after year. This will be hard work. It will require a sustained and coordinated effort. We can’t do it on the cheap. No one organization can do it alone. There is no silver bullet. And the payoff won’t be immediate.
But the return on our investment will be off the charts.
Charley and Josh are Hamilton’s future. Now, maybe they’ll move away. But Hamilton will always be their hometown. They will always remember how all of us stepped up, believed in their potential and helped them achieve their dreams. They will become Hamilton’s best ambassadors, cheerleaders and champions. And maybe one day they’ll return to Hamilton once their careers are in full swing, bringing a wealth of skills and a world of experience.
So here’s Mohawk’s vision for Hamilton. In 25 years time, Hamilton will have the most highly skilled and best educated workforce in all of Canada. Made-in-Hamilton talent will be our greatest competitive advantage, our most sought-after export and our most powerful magnet for attracting new companies, new investments and new jobs. We’ll do our part to make sure Mohawk students and graduates are future ready.
This will be Hamilton’s reputation. We will be known as a city where potential is developed to the fullest. A city that has high hopes and expectations for every child.
We will be heralded as a city that moved ahead because we worked together to ensure that no one was left behind. We tilted the playing field in favour of kids like Charley and Josh.
In 25 years time, there should be conferences and conversations like this happening in communities across North America.
Citizens will get together to ask two questions.
How do we become the next Hamilton?
And how can the kids in our community follow in the footsteps of Charley and Josh?
Mohawk is all in. We’re open to new ideas and ready to partner.
And we don’t care who gets the credit so long as kids like Charley and Josh dream big and make the most of their remarkable gifts.