KPE hosts Summer Mentorship Program

KPE's Clara Benson building, where students in the Summer Mentorship Program met for a series of talks, demonstrations and workshops.

The Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education hosted approximately 80 students in the Summer Mentorship Program (SMP), an initiative founded in 1994 by the Faculty of Medicine and the Toronto District School Board, together with the Association for the Advancement of Blacks in the Health Sciences, to help address concerns about the under-representation of students of Indigenous and African ancestry in the health sciences.

KPE has long participated in the initiative, offering students in the mentorship program tours of their facilities, lab demonstrations, presentations and workshops emphasizing the multidisciplinary nature of the program.

Sarah Nkouta from the Francis Libermann Catholic High School in Scarborough signed up for the program thanks to an ongoing interest in the health sciences fueled by a family history of working in the field.

“My dad was a pharmacist before we came to Canada from Italy. My uncle is a surgeon in France and one of my aunt’s is a pharmacist in Canada,” she said. “I also like the idea of helping people.”

Nkouta was interested in seeing the different faculties at the University of Toronto, so that she can explore her options once she graduates from high school.

“I wanted to learn more about kinesiology, since I am also an athlete and would potentially like to have a career in this area,” she said.

KPE Assistant Professor Janelle Joseph welcomed the students to the faculty sharing her story of resilience, reflections and resolutions that eventually led her to her dream job at the faculty.

“22 years ago, I was sitting in your seat, about to graduate from high school and unsure of what I wanted to study,” she said, telling the students of her interest in drama, writing, sport, genetics, ancestry, science and biology, as well as culture, gender and indigeneity. 

Faced with the dilemma of having to choose between a degree in humanities, social sciences or life sciences, Joseph realized that kinesiology was a field where she could focus on all her areas of interest. Better yet, after completing her undergraduate and graduate degrees in kinesiology, she was able to apply her knowledge to a variety of jobs, from personal trainer and strength coach to counsellor and researcher. 

“The important thing is to persevere in achieving your goals, even if it means stumbling a few times on your way,” said Joseph. “Coming back from a challenge is how you develop your strength. To use a kinesiology analogy, you’re not going to get strong unless you lift the heavy weights.”

Following a lunch, the students were treated to lab demonstrations in the faculty’s Motor Control Lab, the Infant and Child Health (INCH) Lab and Respiratory Lab, getting a taste of the multidisciplinary flavour of a program that spans and integrates physical-cultural, biophysical and behavioural studies. 

"I wanted to experience what it’s like to be at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education," said Alexander Olowookere from Downsview Secondary School. “You don’t hear about kinesiology as much as you hear about medicine in high school. I learned a lot today.”