Everton Jamie Caine is a child and youth care practitioner with a passion for education and equity.
One of his favourite quotes is from Harriet Tubman: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
But while he believed that for his peers, he didn’t see it for himself.
“I began college very uncertain as to whether I was going to even make it, navigating the convoluted processes of post-secondary as an African, Black, Afro-Carribean (ABC) man,” he said.
Caine describes his childhood as “very rough.” He attended six different high schools.
“Education as it relates to formal education has always been a challenge and a trigger for anxiety for me,” he said.
Heading into college, he was scared, nervous and convinced he would fail, but as time went on, to his surprise, it got easier.
“Every day and every semester that went by, I would learn more about myself, my potential and what I want to do – and I would not be half the person I am today without the experiences from the BASE.”
The Black Academic Success and Engagement (BASE) program at Humber College seeks to provide students who identify as Black, African and Caribbean with a space where they can be themselves. The BASE creates a sense of community and helps students access resources and supports.
After being introduced to the program by a faculty member, Caine was intrigued and excited.
“It became something magical from that moment, ” he said.
Caine volunteered with the program and immediately felt the support of the BASE. The people there helped him face whatever challenges arose and helped him celebrate his every success.
He leveraged the connections he made at the BASE and other departments to secure employment at Humber in various roles, including work placements for his program. Later, he worked at The BASE as a student leader
Caine worked with youth, helping them with homework and vocational navigation among other duties.
His experience informed his approach.
“It’s important that we build railroads. We build them with intention, always looking back to bring others along. As we step forward and gain more access for ourselves, we are to create space for others to have access as well ,” he said.
Caine’s ability to navigate educational systems is hard-won. As a Black student with accessibility needs, he felt some anxiety and hesitation around connecting with Accessible Learning Services.
“However, I identified that in order for me to be successful in post-secondary, I’d have to access the supports available, regardless of my anxiety,” he said.
He was paired with an accessibility consultant who Caine credits with being integral to his success at Humber.
“They supported me every step of the way with bi-weekly check-ins and also by communicating with professors or even coaching me in navigating difficult conversations and interactions and helping me to develop advocacy skills I need to be successful at Humber and in society at large.”
Caine describes his disability as a “superpower,” and attributes much of his self-awareness to the work he has put into navigating the world of education.
He is now Co-Executive Director of the Harriet Tubman Community Organization, which is a grassroots organization that works to engage African, Black and/or Caribbean youth from the age of four to 25.
The organization helps them develop their identities and creates space where they are valued just as they are. It also provides life skills counselling, educational programs and opportunities for personal and professional development.
Caine now believes fully in the idea that dreamers - including himself - have the strength, passion and patience to change the world, just as Tubman once said.
He works with a mentor who suggested he begin preparations for the next stage of his life – a masters’ degree in education.
Caine was considered a failure by teachers and others, but he has conquered all negative assumptions. He knows who he is and now his vision is clear.
“I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m definitely closer than I was yesterday,” he said.
“You have the capacity to leverage your lived experience and knowledge to reshape your world. The opportunities that can exist for you are endless.”
For more information on Everton Jamie Caine and his work, visit his website: www.evertonjcaine.ca