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SuccessBeyond

Jason King

Seneca Program: Social Service Worker

Degree Program and Institution: Bachelor of Social Work – Ryerson University

Master’s Program and Institution: Master of Social Work – University of Toronto

Which factors influenced your decision to pursue the Social Service Worker diploma at Seneca? How did you come to decide that this was the career path you wished to pursue? 

I wanted to help people deal with the pressures of life and to guide them in navigating the complex structures in society. While I had considered several different options, I ultimately chose Seneca for its welcoming environment. Additionally, I really felt that the staff and faculty were genuinely interested in helping me succeed. Looking back, I know I made the best decision because Seneca prepared me for the challenges I would later face when I continued my education, and once I began my career.

What influenced your decision to continue your education after completing your diploma?

The drive for change. Even though my initial goal was to complete my diploma and enter the workforce, I quickly learned that a diploma would not take me where I wanted to be. It did however provide me with the foundation I needed to excel in university. Some of my professors also played a role in my decision to pursue a degree. They encouraged me to continue my education. I knew that frontline wouldn’t be the best fit for me so I needed to gain and develop skills that would lend well to supporting organizations and lobbying for change. A degree was the obvious next step, so through a Seneca pathway, I went on to complete the Bachelor of Social Work program (BSW) at Ryerson. I am now working towards my Master of Social Work (MSW) at the University of Toronto, which will provide me with more advanced knowledge focused on social justice and diversity, and exposure to greater professional application.

How did you decide which degree program to pursue? 

It was a difficult decision. I am interested in policy and social change so political science was also an area of study that I was interested in pursuing, in addition to social work. I weighed my options and, after considering the length of time for degree completion and future career opportunities, I decided that a BSW would be the best option for me. Via the degree pathway from my Seneca diploma, I was admitted into the second year of the degree program. As well, a BSW could still open doors in the public sector among other possibilities.

Can you share a standout experience or memory that you have from Seneca?

I was involved with the First Generation call campaign during which I was responsible for calling at-risk students. Like me, these students were the first in their families to attend postsecondary education. I felt connected to these students and wanted to do what I could to help encourage them and guide them to resources available to support them through their academic and campus experiences. This particular experience – reaching out and connecting with peers – was really personal and felt so meaningful. 

How did your Seneca program prepare you for your degree program? For your current career?

My diploma program and my experiences outside of the classroom provided me with the foundation I needed to endure and succeed since I graduated from Seneca. When I began college, I had really bad writing skills and I needed some extra support to better communicate within an academic context. I sought assistance from the Learning Centre. I even remember spending an entire day there once! Their team provided me with tips, strategies and resources to help me improve my written communication. This translated to better grades, of course.

The Social Worker program in conjunction with my involvement in on-campus activities paved the way for my career in community development, social justice and student affairs. I was exposed to these principles through my program curriculum – especially, our practicum – and through participating in the Seneca Leadership program, SMILE, and a number of other initiatives.  

What are you up to now?

In addition to working towards my MSW, I currently work as a Graduate Advisor at Ryerson, Equity Diversity Inclusion Student Leader at the University of Toronto and Graduate Research Assistant (also at the University of Toronto). I am also a member of the Black Community Consultative Committee for the Toronto Police Service, where I provide strategies to engage the Black community. I also run Think Possible Motivation, through which I develop and deliver workshops for schools and community organizations.

I enjoy working in higher education and I look forward to having more opportunities to help develop curriculums and support student success. I have been fortunate to have been able to be a part of some great projects, from developing curriculums on Equity Literacy for the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto to working with the Office of the Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion at Ryerson. 

You are currently working towards your MSW at the University of Toronto. Can you tell us about your experience there so far? What specific research topics are of interest to you?

It has been a great experience so far. The faculty is excited to have me as I bring a wide range of experiences. I am enjoying the learning process and working with my peers. For research, I am interested in looking at and challenging notions around anti-Black racism, the overrepresentation of Black children in the child welfare system in Ontario and challenging the dangers racism in education. I am extremely passionate about changing the narrative and discourses that contribute to issues of anti-Black racism. I am a firm believer that pedagogy has the power to change the narrative of Blackness.

You were very involved in campus life at Seneca. How did your co-curricular activities contribute to your Seneca experience and prepare you for your current endeavors?

I was really active in campus life. Being involved not only helped to build my skills and confidence but it also broadened my perspective and made me acutely aware of social issues that persist within our communities. I credit Seneca for igniting my passion for public speaking and facilitation. The Seneca Leadership Program challenged me to come out of my shell. It gave me plenty of opportunities to engage with other students and build my leadership skills.

My Seneca experience also led me to other opportunities in the community. For example, through Seneca Serves (organized community service learning experiences), I was able to get involved with supporting local causes. I now speak at community events and conferences. The SMILE program prepared me for my work with the Tri-Mentoring Program at Ryerson.

I would definitely say that I made the absolute most of my time at Seneca!

From experience, what do you think the value of having a diploma and a bachelor degree is?

My diploma gave me the foundational skills and knowledge I needed to succeed in the academic endeavors I have pursued over the past three years. My bachelor’s degree gave me a strong theoretical base from which I was able narrow my interests and identify research areas I am passionate about. This helped to prepare me for my master’s program.

I felt my high school experience and the courses which I streamed into would limit my postsecondary options. However, I really found my true self at Seneca and used every opportunity to learn, grow and shine. In essence, my diploma gave me the life skills I needed to succeed in the academic world and go beyond my own definition of success.

Any words of advice to students who are currently in the program you graduated out of at Seneca? And considering pursuing further education. 

Just do it. Believe that your dreams are possible and believe that you can attain them. I really mean this: if I can do it, so can you! I began my postsecondary journey in the Social Service Worker diploma program at Seneca. Now, I am working towards my master’s degree at the University of Toronto. If I had listened to the folks who told me university would be too difficult, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They were right - university was not easy - but it was achievable, if you are willing to apply the time and energy required and make certain short-term sacrifices. While I was at Ryerson, I received more than 15 awards and distinctions. The road was not easy but you grow so much along the way.