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Source: University of Toronto

Creating a home away from home at Woodsworth College

November 7, 2006

Woodsworth: A multi-generational community Nov 7/06 by Michah Rynor

Call them the big brothers and big sisters you never had ó or the shoulder to lean on that you wish you could have had growing up. Either way, resident dons are a godsend for the average student in residence.

Woodsworth don David Pereira, a 27-year-old fourth-year student in the Faculty of Musicís music education program, is working on his second undergraduate degree at U of T.

Being a don is a tremendous opportunity for a U of T student, Pereira said. "If you like engaging with other students in a leadership capacity it allows you to give back to the college community either through your own experiences and challenges youíve overcome or imparting what you have lived through that you could have dealt with better," he said, sitting in the Woodsworth residence common room. "You can pass on that knowledge and help students, especially those coming here for the first time."

As well, he added, a don is essential in creating programs for residence dwellers, setting up special events while trying to get students involved in their home away from home. In short, the don helps put together a micro-community on a big campus in a big city.

"And then there is the support for students in crisis or experiencing emotional problems. While weíre not trained counsellors, we are the first point of contact in times of trouble and we can refer them to the appropriate experts on campus," he said.

Being a don at Morrison Hall is a unique experience for Pereira, "because weíre still a relatively new building and we can create our own programs and traditions from scratch that will hopefully continue for years to come. Students coming here really have the opportunity to leave a legacy."

Legacies such as the Trick or Eat Halloween food collection where residents went out to gather non-perishable food for the Daily Bread food bank, the social outreach programs in partnership with Variety Village that help disabled children and a gay/straight alliance program.

Arthur Lo, a third-year geography and urban studies student from Vancouver, is one of the residents who has leaned on Pereira. "Iíve gone to him on a personal level such as counselling when Iíve asked his opinion on a number of issues as well as the usual suite problems that come up when you live with a number of people in the same space. David is always approachable and always there to help."

Lo doesnít have any brothers of his own and looks to Pereira as an older brother, friend and mentor. "There is a feeling of security knowing that the don is around," Lo said.



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