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St. Michael's College student uses social media to celebrate diversity, build U of T community

With a focus on Black History Month in February, Oghogho Abigail Iyekekpolor launched a social media campaign, called #SoulsofSMC, to inspire students and ensure representation at St. Michael's College (photo by Emma Graham)

Oghogho Abigail Iyekekpolor, a second-year University of Toronto student at St. Michael’s College, understands the importance of feeling represented.

She recalls sitting in a high school class in Toronto as the work of Caribbean poet and playwright Sir Derek Walcott was being discussed.

“I looked around my class and I was the only Black person, yet here were all these other students engaged in his work. It almost brought tears to my eyes,” Iyekekpolor says.

She had a similar experience this semester when, on the first day of one of her classes, a Black woman professor walked in to teach.

“It took me telling my friends what it meant to me for them to understand,” Iyekekpolor says. “People don’t recognize how important it is to have people they can relate to who are models for them.

“It’s important for people to take the time to think about how other people – and they themselves – are represented.”

Iyekekpolor is now putting that understanding into action at St. Mike’s by launching a new social media campaign called #SoulsofSMC. The campaign, to be overseen by the college’s office of Student Life, will focus on inspirational student stories that motivate their peers to get involved in a range of activities.

“It’s great to know there are other students at St. Mike’s who share your values and experience,” Iyekekpolor says.

Weekly posts will focus on someone – usually a student leader – who will select from a list of questions to share her or his experience at St. Mike’s, offering answers to questions such as how to develop a sense of St. Mike’s as home or how to navigate cultural challenges. The option to choose which questions to answer promises that the profiles will be as unique and diverse as the students themselves.

Many weeks the posts will be linked to a theme, including Black History Month during the month of February. Iyekekpolor and Student Life Associate Emma Graham have a lengthy list of suggested themes on how to celebrate the community.

Double majoring in neuroscience and psychology, with a minor in French, Iyekekpolor was a participant in her first year in St. Mike’s SMC One program the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas. Iyekekpolor also works part-time as a Student Life programming assistant, splitting her time between handling social media posts and helping plan events with various clubs on campus. Graham says it was Iyekekpolor’s idea, for example, to plan a pair of workshops on African and Caribbean cooking to mark Black History Month.

When she’s not engaged in school or work, Iyekekpolor also belongs to an a cappella singing group through the Faculty of Music and is preparing for a big competition. Her long-term goal is to pursue a career in medicine.

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