This past week I had the honour of attending the annual graduation ceremony hosted bytccld Toronto’s Centre for Community Learning & Development (CCL&D, formerly East End Literacy). Having been involved in the mid-to-late 90’s, I still get invited to celebrate the organization’s tremendous progress — and always leave filled with positivity and admiration for their accomplishments.

I cannot say enough good things about the innovative — yet ultra-intuitive– ways that this organization has transformed itself and its community (which spans the St. Jamestown and Regent Park areas of Toronto, but has expanded its reach in recent years through partnerships with community programs across the Greater Toronto Area).

In this year’s highlights, CCL&D introduced a series of compelling personal stories its program participants had created. Using still photography from the students’ personal collections, interspersed with scenery, abstract images and custom-made artwork, each story was narrated using voiceovers, with the participants narrating their personal histories.

The stories spanned generations of history, taking place in countries across the globe, to culminate in each person’s present-day experience in Toronto, at CCL&D. To have the narrators/creators in the audience, and receiving recognition for their other accomplishments in learning and community development made the experience that much more profound.

digitalstoriesRecognizing their success with integrating this technology into its curriculum, the Center for Digital Storytelling based in Berkeley, California has conferred official partner site status to CCL&D (you can see some sample digital stories on the Berkeley org’s site).

You could say that the new addition to its programming brings this organization full-circle: from being Toronto’s pioneer in self-publishing for literacy learners in the 70’s, to harnessing twentieth-century technologies to once more give a voice to the people who come through its doors seeking to make positive changes in their lives.

Gee, I can’t wait to see what they’re up to next year.