Our Impact Why We Exist
A student at Sir John A MacDonald CI who is a break dancer became involved in our programming through UNITY’s after school club liaison and supervising teacher. The student had been labeled by their school as “at-risk” and there was great concern that they would not be able to graduate due to poor attendance. On recommendation from the teacher, this student came to UNITY’s assembly auditions where they were teamed with a female student from a different friend group, dancing background and culture. This performance collaboration although a profound shock to the rest of the student body at Sir John A. MacDonald was received enthusiastically at their assembly. In preparation of the performance the student attended every scheduled rehearsal, which showed their dedication to their teachers and was a major factor in preventing the student's expulsion from school. We selected the student and the dance partner to represent Sir John A. MacDonald at the July 24th, 2010 “Kickoff” Festival at Dundas Square.
Kareen Wong a member of UNITY's all youth breakdancing crew UNITeam said that: “Unity has also helped develop my leadership skills by giving me opportunities to be in charge of shows. I have helped organize a few shows of the crew UNITeam and by doing so I grew in becoming a stronger leader”. Other program participants stated: "It helped me be positive, and gave me a sense of fufillment", “It helps people break out of their shells and have confidence in themselves to bare their soul to an audience. It also helps you learn how to express your thoughts on paper”, and "When I feel violent, music calms me".
Our Story What We Do
History of Organization
Michael Prosserman found his passion for break dancing at a very young age. Michael started UNITY Charity at the age of sixteen when he realized that he wanted to share his positive self-expression with other young people undergoing various issues. When Michael was growing up, his mother was diagnosed with a mental illness, which caused Michael stress throughout his childhood and put pressure on Michael to mature quickly. Michael used dance to relieve his stress and let his passion guide his future.By the age of eighteen Michael had begun to gain recognition for his passion as he was accepted into the pool of performers for Cirque Du Soleil, featured in the movie “Honey” and has subsequently competed around the world against many of the world’s top break dancers. Michael decided he wanted to share this alternative education with other youth and expanded UNITY as a student club at York University. The idea behind UNITY earned Michael a spot as a finalist for the Top 20 Under 20 award. However at the same time Michael was devastated to learn that he suffered from a chronic neck condition that would limit his dancing forever. It was after this life altering revelation Michael decided to make UNITY his priority. While Executive Director of UNITY Charity Michael has received the Vital People award from the Toronto Community Foundation, and was invited to present at TED x Youth Toronto.
Accolades and Accomplishments
2003-07: The "Hip-Hop Away From Violence" project was created by Michael Prosserman in his Grade 11 Entrepreneurship class. UNITY is established as a student club at York University. The Hip-Hop Away From Violence program is a finalist for Youth in Motion’s Top 20 Under 20 competition. UNITY became a registered non-profit, and a representative and diverse Board of Directors is formed. UNITY wins the “Courage to Soar” Award at the Top 20 Under 20 Conference.
2008: UNITY receives charitable grant from the Laidlaw Foundation, moving from a solely volunteer group to hiring a part-time staff. UNITY receives charitable status from Revenue Canada.
2013: UNITY has been in over 80 schools. 100,000+ youth have experienced our inspiring assemblies: 8000+ have experienced our in-class artistic development workshops: 200+ youth per year have developed as youth leaders and mentors (through after school programs, community events, UNITY Festival attracting 30,000+ ppl last year, etc.). UNITY creates UNITeam and UNIFECT, which are all youth break dancing and spoken word crews respectively composed of young dancers and poets recruited from our in-school programs. UNITY was honoured to perform at the Ontario Trillium Foundation Great Grants awards as well as Canadian Tire Jumpstart's golf tournament.UNITY Currently hires over 50 young people across the country.
2014: After meeting youth from UNITY Programs in Toronto and Halifax and participating in workshops, their Excellencies the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and Mrs. Sharon Johnston announce they are pleased to serve as patrons of UNITY Charity.
2014: UNITY is selected to be featured on the Mental Health Innovation Network (MHIN), a community of mental health innovators sharing innovative resources and ideas to promote mental health and improve the lives of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
Our Programs How We Do It
UNITY Intensive School Programs
Our core program is the UNITY Crew After school program:
The UNITY Crew is an 18 week program which provides youth with the opportunity to further develop skills for success by running the UNITY Day at their school. The youth in the UNITY Crew are assigned roles to run all the needed lead up and follow up activities for the UNITY Day and UNITY after school program. They are responsible to choose the messages for their UNITY Day, select Club roles, run auditions, rehearsals, performances, recruit peers to join the after school program, participate in the after school program and prepare artistic pieces to lead with their voices in their schools and communities. The UNITY Artist Educators give the students more advanced lessons in artistic outlets in the 18 week after school program and prepares the group to create a final piece to present in their schools and communities.
We also offer day long introductory programs to help introduce youth to our community based programs and get them further involved in our ongoing follow up activities.
These introductory/recruitment programs include what is called a UNITY Day:
A UNITY Day includes:
1) UNITY Day Assembly: Introduces UNITY's unique programming through a combination of personal stories, performances, skits, and video presentations that encourage youth to discover an artistic medium and use it to cope with stress, anger, and develop into positive role models for their peers.
2) Hallway Performance “Cypher”: The hallway performance “cypher” is an extension of the performance element seen on the same day as the assembly in a more organic manner.
3) In-Class Workshops: In-class workshops provide opportunities for youth to develop skills in a particular art form of interest directly after the assembly experience.
To see more on this program check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_9i7tA11_A
Funding and Program Partners
Funding and Program Partners include:
- Private donors and family foundations
- Ontario Arts Council Operating Funding
- Various High School Partners across Toronto (over 20 schools currently)* We are currently seeking families and partners to support schools on an individual basis or communities as a whole.
Through our programming we have developed over 400 youth leaders who share their stories to inspire the younger generation to make better choices and create safer and healthier communities. Our goal is to transform communities through our after school programs creating young leaders who create the new "cool" in schools leading a new positive movement of change in their communities.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
367,910 households (families and single-people) in the city of Toronto (30.3% of all households) were living in poverty in 2010:
- The number of low-income lone-parent families in Toronto declined almost 5% between 2009 and 2010, while the numbers of low-income single people – particularly seniors – grew.
The number of working poor in the Toronto Region increased by 42% between 2000 and 2005, with the highest proportion (70,700 people) in the city of Toronto. Almost 3 out of 4 of them (73% in 2005) are immigrants.
Our program targets youth in underserved neighborhoods in communities with many low-income lone-parent families.
Almost 43% of Torontonians over 18 years old are overweight or obese:
- Obesity impacts the lives of 1 in 7 people in Toronto
- According to Toronto Public Health, about 1 in 3 children (aged 2 to 11) is overweight or obese
- For the sixth consecutive year, Canadian children received a grade of “F” on the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card
Camada Report Card:
- 46% of Canadian children spend 3 hours or less a week — including weekends — in active play. In Toronto, that would be equivalent to about 184,400 of the city’s 400,840 children.
- In 2010, almost 4 in 10 (38.2%) of youth (age 12 -19) in the city of Toronto reported that they were inactive during leisure time.
The epidemic of physical inactivity is now costing the Canadian economy more than $6.8 Billion (3.8% of total health care costs in 2009).
Most newcomers arrive in Toronto healthier than the average Canadian, but many become less healthy as they live here longer. Newcomers initially report good physical and mental health, including lower rates of depression, mood and anxiety disorders, and alcohol dependence. Over time, changes in diet, stress, and economic marginalization take their toll. Longer-term immigrants are more likely than newcomers to smoke, drink heavily and be overweight or obese.
Our program uses positive phyiscal activity and mental health stress reducing activities through the arts to give youth healthier opportunities in their daily lifestyles.
UNITY Festival: Celebrating youth in our programs across the city, giving youth a platform to have their voices heard in a 4 day festival experience.To see more on this program check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUUiKs38q_U
Youth Leadership Groups: Teach youth to teach their own workshops and perform in their community with powerful messages. Teach youth life skills, event planning, entrepreneurship, grant writing and much more with opportunities to apply these skills. Current committees: spoken word group and break dancing.
To see more on this program check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtOrwIj3dyc
Artist Educator Training: Around 30 artists trained each year with skills to teach workshops, tell their story, write a lesson plan and perform with UNITY messages. This creates consistency and quality in our programs. It also provides professional artist development. Youth are eligible to join after graduating grade twelve.To see more on this program check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_9i7tA11_A
Funding and Program Partners
We are currently looking for strategic funding and program partners for our core programs.We are also looking for professional development consultation on program and organizational growth.
Please contact us if you're interested in supporting a specific program or our organization in this key stage of growth.
Funding and Program Partners include:
- Private donors and family foundations
UNITY Festival 2013:
Funders: Celebrate Ontario, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Department of Canadian Heritage
Lead Sponsor: ING Direct
Bronze Sponsor: Freedom 55, Riocan, Tim Hortons, Westjet
Media Sponsor: Much Music, FLOW 93.5FM, NOW Magazine
Youth Leadership Groups:
Partners: Toronto Culture
Funders: Toronto Public Health
Artist Educator Training:
UNITY strategically partners with organizations who help us leverage program resources to co-create youth focused arts education programs through workshops, summer camps, drop-ins, festivals, and motivational shows. Examples of previous partnered programs have included Ill Abilities Shows, the AGO, Art Starts Drop in at Yorkdale, Drum Arts, Focus on Youth Summer Camps, Aeroplan Beyond Miles Campaign, Manifesto.
The impact of UNITY's CommUNITY Programs is focused on engaging, developing and empowering community youth through our unique programming and messages. These programs bring together youth to break down physical and imagined barriers to work together through relatable art forms. Additionally, the CommUNITY Programs allow us to continually engage youth outside of school, allowing UNITY to capitalize on the momentum we have gained through the United Voices School Program. Also the partnerships we create with other organizations increases the number of youth exposed to our programs and creates new and innovative program opportunities for youth.
A successful CommUNITY Program was the 2013 UNITY Festival which was a 4 day festival which had 250 youth from various communities perform, teach and volunteer for a full day at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto, which had 35,000 attendees.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
What should be done with all the "extra" space in Toronto's schools?
There are currently 70,000 'empty' spaces in Toronto's elementary schools
- The average utilization rate for elementary schools is 76% and for high schools is 78%, which means that overall, at least one in five school spaces is unfilled. In the ‘905’ region, some school boards are at more than 100% utilization rate.
These are the spaces UNITY uses for our programming.
The creation of new jobs failed to meet the needs of a rising Regional population:
- About 1 in 10 people in Toronto's workforce were unemployed in July 2012 – a rate one-third higher than the whole country's (7.3%):
The youth unemployment rate in Toronto remained above 17% in 2011.
- The average unemployment rate for 15-24 year-olds remained 51% higher than in 2001.
- The youth unemployment rate, already much higher than the overall unemployment rate, jumped 15% over June 2011, to 19.8% (unadjusted for seasonality)
UNITY provides full, part time and contract jobs for youth and young adults. We employed over 50 young people last year as facilitators, coordinators, artists and staff.
What You Can Do
Activities a donation will support
MAKE A DONATION, MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
$20,000 - SUPPORT A COMMUNITY
- Transform a community from the ground up, empower youth role models to create change in their own community- Create 2 Sustainable UNITY Crews through 2 After School Programs- Create mentorship opportunities within 2 host high schools and 2 junior high schools- Empower over 50 youth role models, inspire over 1000 youth- Provide full-time employment for 1 youth from our program for 1 year- Launch a weekly urban arts program in a community space for 1 year- Create a safe space for over 30 youth for over 150 hrs on evenings & weekends
$10,000 - ANGEL INVESTOR
- Create a positive, safe and healthy school culture in 1 school- Create a Sustainable UNITY Crew through 1 After School Program- Create mentorship opportunities within host high school and in 1 junior high school- Empower over 25 youth role models, inspire over 500 youth- Provide part-time employment to 1 youth from our program
$5,000 – ANGEL SUPPORTER
- Create a positive, safe and healthy school culture in 1 school- Create a Sustainable UNITY Crew through 1 After School Program- Empower over 25 youth role models, inspire over 500 youth
$2,500 - LEAD INVESTOR
- Launch a weekly urban arts program in a community space for 6 months- Create over 75 hrs of free programming for youth on evenings & weekends- Provide a safe and encouraging program for over 30 youth in a priority community$1,000 - SCHOOL INVESTOR
- Help youth break down and confront stereotypes while finding positive outlets for their stress & anger- Engage over 400 youth to experience a UNITY Day in their school (Takes over the school for 1 full day)- Provide 1 school assembly, 8 in-class workshops and a hallway dance cypher$600 - ROLE MODEL INVESTOR
- Empower 10 youth leaders to teach 25 workshops to 200 of their peers in their communities
$300 - SAFE SPACE INVESTOR
- Provide 25 youth with 1 month of programming in our safe space Community Drop-in Hubs
$120 - CLASSROOM INVESTOR
- Empower 1 classroom with 25 youth in a hands on workshop using urban arts as a vehicle to help relieve stress and anger in a positive way
$50 - EMPOWER A YOUTH
- Give 2 youth a platform to perform and share their story at the UNITY Festival at Dundas Square in front of thousands of people
$10 - INSPIRE A YOUTH
- For less then the cost of 1 movie ticket you can expose youth to a whole new world of opportunities, allow 1 youth to experience a high impact UNITY assembly- Youth get to connect with some of Canada's top urban artists and hear their personal, honest and relatable stories
With financial support large impact can be had on communities in need. The UNITY School program will be able to reach more youth through the UNITY Crew after school program to help get these young people on the right path in life. This program will provide these youth with deeper and more sustainable impact by having consistent follow up programming provided by our organization. Our goal is to create leaders and mentors who create change and transform their communities. Investing in one leader creates a powerful ripple effect in the priority communities in which we work.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org our Director of Partnerships if you are interested in making a donation or becoming a sponsor for one of our high impact community programs: Leadership Programs, UNITY Festival & Artist Educator Training Program.