A summer academy aimed at advancing the life skills of young black boys by building their educational potential will visit Brock University on Nelson Mandela International Day.The Toronto-based Strong Academy will be at the main Brock campus on Wednesday, July 18, the day being celebrated around the world as what would have been Mandela’s 100th birthday.The Academy’s students will be greeted at 11 a.m. by Brock University President Gervan Fearon, the first and only black president of a Canadian university.“As an institution, we understand the significant role we play in supporting the aspirations of a progressive, inclusive society that has Canada celebrated around the world,” Fearon said. “As the only black Canadian university president and having grown up in Toronto, I understand there’s a special connection as a role model and an inspiration to the program participants.”Fearon pointed out St. Catharines’ ties to black history and Harriet Tubman, who lived in St. Catharines for 10 years while helping African Americans escape slavery through the Underground Railroad. Brock’s James A. Gibson Library is also home to the Rick Bell Collection, an archive of more than 300 photos and papers spanning more than a century that document families who descended from former slaves in the American south.“Students coming here have access to a particular connection to Canadian black history that they couldn’t get from any other Canadian university,” Fearon said.The Academy visit to Brock reaffirms the vision of the 100 Strong Foundation, a non-profit organization launched in 2012. It aims to support young black men to reach beyond their circumstances. It was founded by a group of “accomplished, professional black men compelled to change the narrative of young African-Canadian black boys as it exists today.”“There are numerous highly accomplished African-Canadians and the narratives of and about black youth need to include these possibilities too,” Fearon said.The Strong Academy is a summer program that works to instill the value of education in boys aged 11 to 14 through traditional schooling and experiential learning opportunities. Eleanor McIntosh, one of two Academy principals, said visits to post-secondary institutions is all about opening the students’ eyes to future possibilities.“It’s meant to plant the seeds to future pathway options. When you see yourself on a campus, you begin to believe that it’s something you can do,” she said.Further to that, McIntosh believes meeting the President will be inspiring to the young men.“To see someone who is like them being in a position like that with all the possibilities it holds is opening up all new worlds about viable outcomes,” she said. “We want to shift the narrative for our boys. It’s through role modelling that allows them to reflect and make connections to their own personal destiny or possibilities in the future.”Fearon said considering the tremendous contributions Mandela made to inclusive societies and the University’s commitment to upholding Mandela’s values, it’s fitting for Brock to be hosting the Academy on the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth.The visiting students will also be introduced to Brock Associate Professor of Education Dolana Mogadime, who is currently working with the Mandela: Struggle for Freedom exhibition at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg, where she has been conducting educational workshops for school leaders.“It’s wonderful that youth from 100 Strong Academy will be on campus on the day that acknowledges one of the most influential figures in history,” she said.Recently appointed as the first CMHR visiting scholar, Mogadime feels youth engagement in relation to Mandela’s legacy builds first-hand knowledge of their own potential.Quoting Mandela she added, “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”Two groups of students from the Strong Academy will visit Brock next week. The first will arrive on Tuesday, July 17 and spend the day visiting science labs, attending a mock Social Sciences lecture and trying out the Brock Sports facilities and high ropes course before staying overnight in the University residences. They’ll be joined by a second group that will arrive on Wednesday morning.In all, around 80 students from the Academy will be present when they meet Fearon, Mogadime and others during the lunch session from 11 to 11:45 a.m. in Market Hall. The President commended James Mandigo, Vice-Provost, Enrolment Management and International, and colleagues from across student services for their efforts and contributions to the organization and events surrounding the visit of the students associated with the Academy.After their visit to Brock, the students will travel to St. Catharines Museum for a further lesson on Niagara’s black history before heading back to Toronto.