#TrinityGrad18: Bridging the Gap - Maddy Ross's Inspiring Community Impact
When Trinity College’s Maddy Ross graduated in June, she accomplished what few from her high school would. Although she would excel while at university, Maddy’s journey is one also marked by an unfailing positive impact.
Maddy came to Trinity thanks, in part, to the support of a charitable organization called Pathways to Education. Working in low income communities across Canada, Pathways provided Maddy with financial help, tutoring and mentoring to help her achieve her academic goals. Growing up, Maddy had experienced first-hand the issues that had brought Pathways to her neighbourhood. But it was while at Trinity that she would examine and engage with the systemic problems affecting her hometown in a new, impactful way.
Maddy began her undergraduate studies in the Public Policy stream of the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program. “The Public Policy stream is what first ignited my interest in looking at the social issues that I experienced around me growing up through a structural lens,” she says. While still in high school, had already taken an active role to improve her neighbourhood. Along with other community members, Maddy had worked to create the Kingston Youth Strategy.
“We started the Strategy because there was a spurt of people my age taking their lives,” she says. “Through this program, we spoke to over 700 young people to better understand their needs.” Following these interviews, Maddy and her peers highlighted key action items for the city to undertake, all of which were unanimously endorsed and funded by Kingston’s City Council. During her studies at Trinity, Maddy would examine and analyze these issues through a range of theoretical perspectives.
In Trinity’s Ethics, Society & Law Program, Prof. Simone Davis’s seminar TRN 321 offered another unique opportunity for Maddy to draw from her background. It was in this class that Maddy felt that she was able to talk about her experience. “I’ve never had the opportunity until that class – we were talking about justice, choice and agency, and all of these themes that were relevant to me.”
For Prof. Davis, Maddy’s perspective was a valuable one in class discussions. “Maddy approaches her work in ES&L holistically, thoughtfully looking at readings through the lens of lived experience, and vice versa,” says Prof. Davis, who is now the Acting Director of Trinity’s ES&L Program.
Maddy’s instinct to create collaborative, supportive communities, as she had through the Kingston Youth Strategy, also flourished while at Trinity. During her second year at the College, Maddy founded the U of T Pathways to Education Alumni Network to help her peers through their transition into university life. “I always knew that I belonged at Trinity, but I had just had a very different educational experience than most of the students here,” Maddy says. Through the organization, Maddy continues to provide a crucial outlet for her peers to discuss issues together. The alumni network is now expanding nationally, offering an opportunity for students across all Canadian university campuses to connect.
According to Prof. Davis, Maddy also brought this sense of community to the classroom: “She operates on the premise that we’re all collaborators and fellow explorers, and this tends to bring out the best in the people around her.”
As for Maddy’s future, she hopes to one day continue her studies. “I’m very interested in working to better understand how we can make decision-making processes, especially in policy, more inclusive so that all the voices that need to be heard are heard in a meaningful way,” Maddy says. “Often you see consultations, but that rarely contributes to structural change. Power shifts happen when people are making decisions about themselves and their issues. I’m passionate about creating those bridges, so people from different experiences can connect.”
Given her incredible gift for creating collaborative, community spaces, it’s a future that’s bound to be successful. “Maddy was a joy to teach, and also someone from whom I learned plenty – as did her fellow students,” Prof. Davis adds. “I can’t wait to see the impact she’ll make as she embraces her work going forward.”