Duretti Hassen isn’t certain what the future holds for her, but it may include a university degree, thanks to U of T’s HSBC Steps to University program.
Hassen, a Grade 12 student at Bloor Collegiate Institute in Toronto, is taking a first-year U of T sociology course as part of Steps. Though she is still mulling over what to do next year, she says the program has encouraged her to consider post-secondary education. “I wasn’t sure whether I would go to university or college,” Hassen says, “so I enrolled in Steps to see if I’d fit in.”
U of T established Steps in 1992 to identify high school students who were likely to succeed at university but who were, for a variety of reasons, unlikely to apply. Students are recommended to the program by their teachers and guidance counsellors. They take a U of T sociology course while they are in Grade 11 or 12 and the credit is transferable to any Canadian university.
Steps was initiated by the university’s Transitional Year Programme (TYP), which helps people who lack formal educational credentials make the transition to university. In partnership with the Toronto District School Board, the HSBC Steps to University Program is offered to more than 200 students in eight Toronto high schools as well as through the Regent Park Pathways to Education program. Many Steps graduates are immigrants to Canada or first-generation Canadians. Hassen, herself a new Canadian, says she is grateful for the opportunities the Steps program has provided. “Before you get into university, it is good to know what is waiting for you,” she says.
Corporate partner HSBC Bank Canada first supported Steps in 2002 with a $150,000 gift and renewed its commitment this fall with an additional $240,000 over three years. Thanks to HSBC Bank Canada’s support, the program will continue to benefit students who might otherwise be unable to overcome barriers to university participation. “We are very fortunate to have partners like HSBC Bank Canada,” says TYP director Rona Abramovitch. “We’ve had great success with Steps. At the graduation ceremonies, you can see the looks of joy and accomplishment on the faces of students, many of whom are the first in their family to have the opportunity to access post-secondary education.”