Summer Enrichment Program Series: Five Morehead-Cains on their Civic Collaboration project with Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto, Canada

Blog | September 22, 2020
Group photo of Bobby McQueen, Jaya Mishra, Maggie Helmke, Megan Lienau, and Alex Mazer.
Team Toronto: Bobby McQueen, Jaya Mishra, Maggie Helmke, Megan Lienau, and Alex Mazer.

There’s less than one month before the application deadline for the Morehead-Cain Class of 2025! We’re excited to continue sharing stories with our Morehead-Cain candidates about the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). As the second installment of our four-part series this fall, we asked five Morehead-Cains to share about their Civic Collaboration experience in Toronto, Canada.

During the Civic Collaboration summer, teams of scholars embed themselves in cities across North America, investigate those communities’ challenges and opportunities, and propose real solutions. Not as interns—but as citizens.

The team included the following Morehead-Cain Scholars from the Class of 2022: Maggie Helmke, Megan Lienau, Alex Mazer, Bobby McQueen, and Jaya Mishra.

Keep reading to hear their story!

Group photo of Bobby McQueen, Alex Mazer, Jaya Mishra, Maggie Helmke, and Megan Lienau.
From left to right: Bobby, Alex, Jaya, Maggie, and Megan.

Megan Lienau: For our Civic Collaboration project, we worked with an organization called Evergreen Brick Works, an urban community center situated in the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. Their mission is to help cities flourish into more livable, green, and collaborative environments by engaging community members with one another and exposing the residents of the area to the natural world.

Evergreen’s mission to be an inclusive force was not fully reflected in their regular clientele. So my four team members and I worked to break down the barriers to accessibility and inclusivity during our eight weeks working with the organization.

As part of our project, we developed an accessibility handbook to serve as a starting point for the organization in advancing accessible programming, event planning, and general services.

Jaya Mishra: Using Ontario’s accessibility guidelines, we audited all of the physical spaces on Evergreen’s campus, such as parking lots, stairs, sidewalks, and signs.

Bobby McQueen: We used both qualitative and quantitative approaches to develop a business case for accessibility, and presented it to upper management. We also provided a cost projection for all of the changes we thought would be necessary to implement.

We interviewed economists in Toronto as well as people who are familiar with financially accessible and physically accessible businesses in the area.

Alex Mazer: On our final day, we shared the findings with Evergreen’s entire staff (around 45 people!). We had them perform simulations of what it would be like to walk through the campus as someone in that target demographic.

Group photo of people participating in the accessibility walk-through
Accessibility walk-through demonstration at Evergreen Brick Works.

Alex: It was really touching to see how engaged they were and how they internalized and appreciated everything that we did. We were there to set the direction for their 10-year plan, and it seemed like that set off the spark.

The group of scholars stand in front of their presentation screen.
Final Presentation Day!

Part II: Exploring the City of Toronto

The group of scholars pose with the Niagara Falls in the background.
Team Toronto at the Niagara Falls.

Alex: My favorite memory of the trip was when we got to celebrate (with basically all of Canada) the Raptors victory against the Golden State Warriors for the 2019 NBA championship. That might be a little hard to replicate in your host city . . . but hopefully it’s a sign that crazy things can happen; you just gotta be ready for it.

Group shot of five people holding a Toronto Raptors flag after the championship game.
The Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in June 2019 to earn the team’s first NBA championship.

Jaya: Living in Toronto was by far the best eight weeks of my life. It was incredible to be immersed in such a rich culture.

Jaya and Megan by Toronto's waterfront.
Jaya and Megan by Toronto’s waterfront.

Megan: My favorite part of being in the city was spending time on Lake Ontario. I joined a rowing club in my first week and practiced with that group of people pretty much every day, every morning. It was a great way to get outside, meet new people, and explore the beauty of the Great Lakes and the area.

Sunrise over Ontario Lake.
Sunrise on Lake Ontario (Summer 2019).

Megan: I recommend getting involved with a local group during your Civic Collaboration experience so that you can experience the city more from the perspective of someone that lives there.

Four people stand on rowing boat, preparing to set off for their practice.
Team rowing practice on the lake.

Team Toronto: Thanks so much for following along on our Civic Collaboration project! We all learned how to effectively collaborate on complex issues and to advocate for members of our community in removing inherent barriers to accessibility and exclusivity.Maggie, Megan, Alex, Bobby, and Jaya.

You can view Instagram Stories Highlights for the Summer Enrichment Program series on our account @moreheadcain.