For the love of Learning

For the love of Learning

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Graduate to Opportunity

The Administrative Coordinator at Halifax Learning Centre knows all about the challenges that face many marginalized youth at school — she’s experienced them herself.

Shakisha Downey and her employer are using that insight to help more young people across HRM set themselves up for academic success and good jobs.

Shakisha is a sociology graduate of Dalhousie University. She was hired by Halifax Learning Centre (HLC) as an administrator, but her role soon expanded to involve outreach and partnerships within communities such as North Preston. She works to assess youth literacy needs and deliver programs to help youth reach their full learning potential.

The Executive Director of HLC, Sarah Arnold, says, “Shakisha has been making an impact since the start.”

“Her ability to manage projects and upgrade technology has taken us to a whole new level — and this was just in the first year. Now she is actively developing outreach programs in HRM,” Arnold said. “As someone who is a shining example of a successful, young African Nova Scotian, who used education as a foundational building block, she brings intelligence and insight into her role, connecting and engaging the community in a strategy to educate youth.”

Hiring well-educated post-secondary graduates like Downey is made easier for employers with the help of a provincial funding program, Graduate to Opportunity (GTO).

Eligible employers can receive
25 per cent of a graduate’s first year salary (35 per cent if the graduate identifies as diverse) and 12.5 per cent of the graduate’s second year salary from the government.

Downey is one of three recent graduates HLC has hired with the support of GTO. This hiring has been essential to the growth, reach and longevity of the Centre, and invaluable to its outreach efforts.

“I am continuously inspired by my coworkers, who challenge me to want more.” Downey says. “I am position where I have colleagues to support what I am doing. In many ways I learn from them and they learn from me too.”

It is amazing that now I am in a position to help it come together for others.”

Employers are eligible for GTO if they are small businesses with fewer than 100 full-time employees, start-ups, non-profits, registered charities or social enterprises.

Interested in learning more about the available funding to hire talented graduates like Downey? Check out the GTO program at

< Back to Articles | Topics: Special Feature

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