15 Sep 2014

The Excellence Conference: Building Cultural Capital

It was a moment of disbelief. Celia Meikle, a chartered accountant, read an article in the Globe & Mail entitled “The Myth of the Brainy Immigrant” which reported that only 23 per cent of children of Latin American and Caribbean descent in Canada advance to a higher education level.

This disturbing fact moved Celia to contact the reporter who wrote the article. The reporter referred Celia to a professor at the University of Toronto who confirmed the accuracy of the report. The professor explained that the reason for the low percentage was due to the lack of foundation, within these communities, set up for the success of a student.

“What can I do?” she asked herself. “Should I use my networks and expose others to it?”

Celia refused to sit back and do nothing. In 2011 she decided to begin what is now known as the Excellence Conference, a free and informative conference for students aged 11 to 21 and their parents. The goal of the Excellence Conference is to expose parents and their children to the many options available to them.

This year, the Region of Peel will partner with the Excellence Conference in making a difference in the lives of students. Students and parents will have the opportunity to meet and speak with successful members of the Caribbean community. Professionals from various fields will be present. Student will also have an opportunity to attend two workshops by Ken Green, a Chartered Professional Accountant and media expert Camille Dundas, who is also the editor-in-chief of this publication. It is free to attend, but students must register.

During the conference, parents and their children get the chance to explore options such as attend a University, a College and or a Trade school. The goal is to let them know that anything beyond secondary school will benefit them.  She is adamant parents realize that the success of their children depends greatly on them.

“Parents need to take time, get information and get involved,” she said.

Celia emphasizes the importance of parental guidance in the lives of their children. Building a network of support is vital to their success.
“It’s the only way you’ll move forward. What other cultures do to succeed is start from the beginning. They tell their children that education is important. They encamp around the kids. They are there,” she said.

She said if parents sit back and do not get involved in their children’s education, the 23 per cent will continue to happen. “Stop complaining. When you do something, you can speak. If you don’t do anything about it, you will stay behind,” she said.

Parents need to work with teachers to ensure their children’s success. They need to find out the major options available to them in way of financing their education such as scholarships. If they aren’t sure what to do, they can go to the library and get information. There are support systems available. Parents are the critical missing piece.

“The biggest job in life is to raise their children. Take advantage of support systems that are there,” she said. “Get involved, invest in your children’s future.”

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