At Trinity, youth from all corners of Toronto gather together to learn not only about their communities but about themselves as well. Secondary school is certainly a formative time of one’s life, as one develops their skills and explores their potential. As such, it is no surprise that Trinity’s impact continues to inspire its participants long after the program is over. Over the past few weeks, we have been speaking with our alumni to hear about their experiences with Trinity and how it has influenced their lives. At this year’s Leadership Lab, we are thrilled to welcome back one of our alum – Aateka Rajab (she/her), who is a Research & Evaluations Specialist on our Research Team. We spoke with Aateka about both her past and present involvement with Trinity, to explore how Trinity has changed over the years, and how its learning outcomes extend far beyond its yearly programming.
1. You mentioned in your #MeetTheTrinTeam introduction that you first became involved with Trinity Theatre back in 2011 in your high school. What was the program like, and what was your role?
I was first introduced to Trinity Theatre in 2011 through my high school, Lester B. Pearson. At the time, Sandra and Alan facilitated workshops where I was a participant of the leadership program, a mediation training, and I also facilitated workshops for middle school students at Hilliard. The trainings and activities were very similar to the Leadership Trainings we see today, such as the analog drawings, clay pigeon, and mapping out assets in our neighbourhood to name a few.
I was a part of the pilot program for Trinity Theatre’s summer program in 2011 and I participated in the summer program again in 2012. In 2011, there were 7 high school students from across the GTA who were a part of the program. We mainly participated in workshops and explored the City of Toronto to develop a better understanding of Canadian history. My role in the program was as a participant and the generational learning with Sandra and Alan was a larger component. In 2012, the program shifted gears and there was a focus on mentorship for youth who had run-ins with the justice system. The TDSB course credit was introduced and the program expanded a lot more in terms of the number of youth who participated. At this time, the workshops, self-reflection exercises, and exploring the city remained the same, but there was an added component of course work for the high school students who wished to receive a course credit. My role in this program was in a mentorship capacity and there was a greater focus on peer-to-peer learning.
2. How would you describe the environment cultivated by Trinity Theatre amongst the secondary students during your high school experience?
The pilot program was a great experience. I remember being nervous at the time because it was my first job in high school, but it turned out to be great. I met people whom I would have otherwise not met. It was a fun and supportive environment, where learning through experience was the key aspect of the program. At the time, there weren’t any deliverables, but it was about having conversations and experiential learning through travelling to develop a better understanding of sense of self and place. We made friendships with everyone in the group, including Sandra and Alan, which was a unique experience for any employment position.
3. Did your participation in Trinity Theatre during high school shape your post-secondary goals and aspirations? If so, in what way?
Trinity Theatre as my first place of employment set the trajectory of the type of employment positions I was able to attain while in school because it was such a unique experience. The experience set me up to be a mentor in various capacities in my undergraduate and onwards and helped me develop communication skills in terms of self-expression and confidence in doing so. I developed novel experiences at the time such as, facilitating workshops with parents outside of my own high school, conducting some research and garnering mentorship experiences. Although not directly related to my goals and aspirations, my experience with Trinity Theatre developed my skills at the time and positively influenced the opportunities that were available to me as a result of my experiences. For example, the opportunity set me up well to be a student ambassador in the Kinesiology program at UofT.
4. What made you decide to return to Trinity Theatre? What is it like to be involved again after all these years?
It’s really different to be involved with Trinity again, all in positive ways. The program is so much more organized and the outputs that the organization is producing as a whole has been impressive to see. The team work and quality of work and the overall processes that the secondary students were undertaking was amazing to see. Overall, seeing the work that the different teams are producing, even the fact that there are different teams is an organizational change from when I last worked with the program and I think the outputs are reflecting how much more effective it is.
Returning to Trinity was a moment of serendipity. Earlier this year when I was looking for work, the pandemic hit, making it really difficult to find any meaningful work. I was lucky to still be connected with a Trinity alumni from 2012 and she suggested I apply to Trinity since she saw some job postings. I was looking for meaningful work that was applicable to my interests and could help me develop my skillset which is what the research and program evaluation position provided. Luckily, I was also still connected to Sandra who pointed me to this opportunity as well and it worked out!
5. Looking back, how has your involvement with Trinity Theatre shape you as a person?
Outside of shaping my interest in mentorship, I’ve had moments post-Trinity where I recalled some of Alan’s philosophical conversations. Life can be chaotic with family, school, work and volunteering and I remember in a moment of anxiety I remember Alan saying just to be in the moment. Look at the trees and nature around you and just be. And at that time, I started journalling and wrote that down because it had such an impact on me in the moment. To answer the question, aspects of the program have shaped me in helping me recall my sense of person when times were tumultuous.
Hear more about what Aateka has to say about the impact that Trinity has had on her in this clip below: