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The End of an Era...

This has got to be one of the most challenging posts I've had to reflect on and write, as one of my good friend & colleague called it out "This is the end of an era" 


It truly has been a beautiful seven year long journey working in post secondary education, ten if you include how long I've been at Ryerson University for. I was once a student who founded an urban cultural movement on campus and was someone who quickly grew to into roles of civic leadership to facilitate, support & create a number of grass roots initiatives aimed at building a stronger and more engaged community. It was only after a couple of victory laps and my graduation in 2010 that I actually reflected on my work in student life. Through this reflection I decided to dedicate my purpose and will power to foster a better world for future generations. So I graduated from the Faculty of Arts with an honorary major in student life (In fact student life is what probably kept me away from dropping out.)  

I was a first generation student who was entering university, I wasn't an academic and didn't anticipate becoming involved or taking on what was considered to be strong leadership roles. In fact at that time I was someone who was extremely disengaged with educational institutions since immigrating to Canada in 1999.  Growing up around neighbourhoods that have been labeled as prioritized made me feel that I wasn't someone who necessarily belonged in university. I had a guidance councilor who even told me that university wasn't best choice for me and maybe he was right at that moment with my history of average grades mixed with my rebellious attitude. Thankfully it was that same attitude that probably told me I had to prove the haters wrong somehow. 

From disengaged to the most engaged 

Disengaged with the educational system and more intrigued in the life outside the classroom I found my first opportunity to do something different with the idea supporting campus life. I ended up taking on the role to found the first hip-hop cultured group on campus  (The Urban Hip Hop Union) in 2005 where there wasn't any education around the misunderstood representation of hip hop. I centered around a cause that attracted like-minded individuals who saw hip hop as more than a lifestyle. It was a cause that allowed us to express ourselves through culture. As the movement grew, like a snowball effect I quickly found myself taking on more responsibility to support the community through arts & culture initiatives. Being a self taught street photographer became my first calling to do something positive in life. Photography being my first passion had helped me express where I came from and so I incorporated the art as a tool for storytelling to provide others with a different lens that can be used in life.

This was my tipping point and it has been a constant renewal and search for“why” since then. Eventually that hunger led me to being elected to serve on student council and the university Board of Governors, with a reason to serve in ensuring that there was stronger representation of under represented identities within institutional politics. Through those roles I felt I was able to do more as someone who started from the bottom and I took every opportunity to be involved in the process. I can hardly count or remember the number of roles I've taken on. From coordinating university wide campus events, initiatives & referendums that had made monumental change such as the Athletic Referendum, which lead to the building of Mattamy Athletic Centre, I realized change can come full circle. I had transitioned into a community builder with mission to engage the disengaged, all while reflecting from my own experience of how the disengaged could become some of the most engaged. So this became a chapter out of my personal journey as a hard knock leader. 

Mix of my photography work & community building mind state for the Athletic Referendum Campaign 

Passing the Torch 

Now upon graduation in 2010 instead of heading overseas bound to take on the world, I decided to continue learning and serving others in a full time capacity and for three years I took on the role of a mentoring officer working with first generation students. Within my last year I expanded beyond student affairs to build my own understanding around the advancement of the university as an Alumni Relations Officer. I was now someone who could work within the educational system to provide resources that I did not see as a young person growing up.

With that being said I also realized I had accomplished a fair bit in my time at Ryerson University:

Founded the first urban cultured campus group "Urban Hip Hop Union" (2005)

Being the only opposition slated executive elected to the students union in the last eight years (2007)

Taking a lead role on the Ryerson University Athletic Referendum Campaign (2009)

Getting the highest voter turn out for Ryerson University, Student Board of Governor elections (2009) 

Dennis Mock Student Leadership Award (2009) 

Hosted & gave a talk at TEDxRyersonU (2012)

Seeing my mom complete school at Ryerson University as a first generation student. (2014)

The last was the most important for me and I still know that the journey does not end here for the long-term change I hope to see within educational institutions, however this institution is definitely not the same place that I once enrolled in as a student. It has changed for the better, with more resources and opportunities for students than ever before. With the work of many people, the torch will be passed to the right hands. Your hands to be more precise ( hands of people with dreams to do more). Today you the young change makers must lead the future of our institutions 

Knowing that we have come so far and accomplished so much, I've realized that this is the best time for me to take on newer roles and continue serve the undeserved and disengaged, where resources are less available.   

Time to change the game

Have you ever read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo? It’s the story of a young boy who leaves the comforts of everything he knows to chase his personal legend. It’s a beautiful story that will inspire  you to chase whatever you have always wanted to accomplish.

I've decided to take a page out of this story as I've reflected over the past two years and in these next two weeks I will be wrapping up my work at Ryerson University to focus on my own long  term goals, dreams & aspirations. One day you will wake up & there won’t be any more time to do the things you've always wanted to do, so my advice is do it now.

Knowing that there is now a stronger community for students has supported what I originally set out to accomplish. I have decided for now to wrap up my work as a higher ed specialist to focus on the next chapter of my life and become a stronger contributor in the world. 

I wouldn't have made it this far if it wasn't for all the mentors, peers, students, staff and faculty that I have had the opportunity to work with through the past years. From the many people in my life I've learned how to be a better person for my future . I hope that your own journey will also push you to challenge the world we live in to be the best that it could be. We should wake up every day chasing our dreams & I've realized it's time for me to start waking up and change the game again by chasing mine .    

So what’s next for me? Well if i told you all the details, there wouldn't be anything interesting to write about the next time. What I will tell you is that I will continue to passionately follow what I've always wanted to do, to make this world a better place and of course you can always drop me a line to find out more.

One of my boys called it out as the "End of an Era" & I said "Nah Bro it's actually just the beginning of one." 

1 Love from @thekidsid

Dedicated to everyone I worked with through the higher ed hustle.

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This is leadership for the everyday hustle 



From Humbled Beginnings


From Humbled Beginnings

The creation of the Hard Knock Leadership initiative 

The birth of Hard Knock Leadership (HKL) came from one particular moment after reaching a milestone in my career.  I had the opportunity to both host and be a speaker at TEDxRyersonU 2012. 

Sharing an experience as someone who had to transform into a leader, speaking on the ability to act on change. I was reflecting on one of my strongest moments as someone who became engaged in process of giving back. 

After the talk was released by the TEDxRyerson Team, I held back on personally sharing my journey so I could reflect a little more on how far I've come. One of the most challenging parts of life is making sense of your own story. I knew that what I shared that day was only scratching the surface of how I came up.  

Today, I'm grateful to have found passion in building a stronger foundation for the future. I'm thankful that I was able to flourish in an environment that I helped create. Most importantly, I'm humbled by how my life has changed for the better, by giving back to others one of the greatest gifts we have; our time.  

"Giving our time is essentially giving our life."

However, the reality is that we don't always think that way. There are many times in life where we are caught in a struggle, a dark place with little light. It takes a hard knock leader to break free of those chains to change their life around, not just for themselves but for the the world that they are a part of.   

It's about a year since my Ted Talk, where I shared an idea about acting on change. Now marks another milestone. The making of something greater that I can ACT on by sharing the stories of leadership for the everyday struggle. HKL is a foundation from where we can build communities together.    

So here is to the humbled beginnings of the "Hard Knock Leaders" in the game and the stories that are the catalyst for the next chapter in our lives

Thanks for reading and check out my Ted talk posted above.

Comment and share if you like. 


The Hard Knock Leader