Educator and youth advocate Jennifer Grant leads George Brown’s Office of Anti-Racism, Equity & Human Rights Services
Jennifer Grant strives to unlock potential. She did this as a child and youth worker, an advocate and a teacher. Now, she aims to unlock potential across the George Brown College community by leading efforts to cultivate an equitable, inclusive and welcoming environment for all learners and employees.
Grant brings a wealth of experience to her new role as Director, Office of Anti-Racism, Equity and Human Rights Services (OAREHRS), including 14 years as a teacher at George Brown’s School of Social and Community Services and two decades in child and youth services, focused on youth justice, mental health and advocacy. Grant also works as a consultant, helping community organizations adopt anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices and policies.
“If people are provided with opportunities and access they can achieve, grow, do more, and become more,” she said. “In terms of George Brown, it is inspiring to think about how much more we can be and achieve, and I know that when we do better, we all do better.”
Grant oversees George Brown's anti-racism efforts and human rights and sexual violence prevention and support initiatives. She also ensures the college continues to meet its obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and privacy protection laws.
A focus on community building
While roles have changed throughout her career, Grant’s focus on community building has not, and it will continue to be a key priority for her as OAREHRS Director.
“Community means everything to me. I see it as foundational to this work,” she said.
George Brown is situated in one of the most diverse cities in the world, and our students reflect this. Nearly half of respondents (44 per cent) to a George Brown College student diversity survey conducted in the fall of 2020 identified as racialized. Grant says this represents an “awesome responsibility."
"The expectation is that we can meet the needs of diverse members of the George Brown community. In higher education, and in any learning space, you want to ensure that everyone feels like they can bring their full self to the learning. You want students, faculty and staff to feel valued, affirmed, and a sense of belonging,” she said. "Because of my background, I am particularly mindful of the student experience.
“When you have students who are racialized in a system that wasn’t necessarily built for them, it is essential that the college looks at the system to determine how we can dismantle barriers and create an environment that ensures each student gets the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
A deep connection to George Brown
After university, Grant came to George Brown for hands-on education to launch a career in child and youth services. She enrolled in the Child and Youth Care program and began her career after she was hired at the youth justice agency where she completed her final field placement.
She worked her way up to management roles with Central Toronto Youth Services and Advocacy Services with the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, all while teaching and mentoring students in her former program. She says she “grew up” with her students.
“I truly believe my students taught me just as much as I taught them,” she said.
In her first year of teaching in the Child and Youth Care program, a student of hers, a young Black woman, said Grant was the first Black teacher she ever had.
“There are moments in your career where you start to shift, and this was a moment when I recognized my impact and my responsibility," she said. “That was a powerful moment for me. I will never forget it.”
Her mother’s daughter
Grant says her mother has been the single biggest influence on her life and instilled in her the principles and love of community that have guided her career.
“It’s something that gets lost when people ask about what I’ve learned, what I’ve done, and about my experience,” she said. “None of that is as impactful to the way that I work as my mother, who came to Canada from Jamaica with so little and yet created so much for herself. She taught me patience, presence and the power of love.”