By Samphe Brulé
Carleton alum Danardo Jones tours his three children around the fifteenth floor of Dunton Tower, where the Enriched Support Program offices and student lounge are situated.
Between the elevators and the front desk hangs a framed newspaper clipping of Jones from 2009, the year he graduated from Carleton University. Jones poses by the photo of his younger self while his children snap a few photos.
Jones is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor, and a practicing criminal lawyer. But decades ago, when Jones moved to Ottawa from Toronto, his path was rocky. After completing his high school equivalency diploma, Jones searched for a university that would accept him into a degree program.
Intent on pursuing post-secondary studies, Jones discovered his path to university through the Enriched Support Program. The guidance offered through ESP—from academic coaching to peer mentorship—helped Jones flourish in his degree program.
“My ESP year, I was able to step into my degree program with confidence,” says Jones. “There were peer mentors, coaches, facilitators, and support at every juncture who had the experience, patience, and compassion to work with students who might be broken.”
After his ESP year, Jones went on to complete a BA in Law at Carleton, then proceeded to law school and an internship on Bay St. in Toronto. But that was not the type of Law that appealed to Jones, who turned to criminal law, and has since devoted much of his time to Legal Aid work. His interest in addressing inequality is rooted in his own experiences growing up, and he seeks solutions to anti-Black racism not only through legal avenues, but through access to post-secondary education.
In Toronto, where Jones grew up, and elsewhere in Canada, access to post-secondary education for Black youth is not a given. As Jones points out, many Black students in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) leave high school with unacknowledged potential. Ontario high schools notoriously “stream” classes, determining which students are placed in applied or academic courses, oftentimes neglecting Black and racialized pupils (and thus pre-determining their futures). Damaging stereotypes and assumptions about Black students from both teachers and peers create a powerful blow to academic confidence. Suspensions and streaming impede Black students’ potential to succeed or even to reach university-level studies.
“I didn’t finish high school, and I’m not unique in that situation. There are many young, racialized—particularly Black—teens in the GTA that do not finish high school. Young, Black men I grew up with are full of potential never to be realized because nobody would take a chance on them.”Danardo Jones
“I didn’t finish high school, and I’m not unique in that situation. There are many young, racialized—particularly Black—teens in the GTA that do not finish high school. Young, Black men I grew up with are full of potential never to be realized because nobody would take a chance on them.”
As a Carleton student, Jones gave back to the Enriched Support Program by mentoring and coaching other ESP students. Now he wants to spread information about the ESP as widely as possible, particularly in communities where students are disproportionately streamed, guided, and discouraged away from post-secondary education.
In the admissions process for the Enriched Support Program, grades don’t tell the whole story; applicants have a chance to tell their story. Their potential is evaluated, not only their grades in high school or other attempts at college or university. Through ESP, students earn university credits while qualifying for acceptance to a bachelor’s degree.
“To be told by [educators], that have always told you that you are not worthy – ‘Hey, actually, that’s a lie. You are actually worthy. And we’re not going to just pay lip service to that, we’re actually going to stand here with you. We’re going to support you straight throughout.’ For me, that was a gamechanger, because it totally flipped my perspective on the world.”Danardo Jones
“To be told by [educators], that have always told you that you are not worthy – ‘Hey, actually, that’s a lie. You are actually worthy. And we’re not going to just pay lip service to that, we’re actually going to stand here with you. We’re going to support you straight throughout.’ For me, that was a gamechanger, because it totally flipped my perspective on the world.”
University empowered Jones by offering critical, theoretical perspectives through which he could understand his experiences with anti-Black racism.
During his studies, Jones noticed a lack of legal scholarship that explores how Black Canadians experience the criminal justice system. He intends to fill this gap with his research at Windsor Law, which explores how heightened focus on Blackness can reinforce stereotypes that bind Black bodies to criminality. This research brings to the fore how Black Canadians navigate the criminal justice system – a first step towards addressing such injustices.
Entrance to university through the Enriched Support Program started Jones’ path to becoming a law school professor and lawyer. “Education saves lives,” says Jones. “I tell that to my children all the time. I found that education gave me the vocabulary, the bravery, and the stamina to stand up. Education gave me an opportunity to flourish and fight back.”
In 2022-2023, Jones is teaching a First-Year Seminar course in the Enriched Support Program called "What is Justice? Stories From Those at the Bottom."
Learn more about the Enriched Support Program at Carleton University by visiting carleton.ca/esp.
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
330 Paterson Hall
1125 Colonel By Drive
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