Central Technical School has a new community group to call its own.
The Friends and Neighbours of Central Tech (FANCTS) is a non-profit association that represents the interests of six key community members: neighbours, parents, staff and faculty, alumni, friends and supporters, and students. The formation of this group was primarily based around the school’s quest for a state-of-the-art turf field.
“This group will be able to speak for many people in the community around Central Tech who are in support of the student’s aspirations to have a year-round field, which includes artificial turf and a dome for winter operation,” says Neil Stephenson, co-chair of FANCTS.
The group officially formed last year. Outlined in the association’s Certificate of Incorporation issued under Canada’s not-for-profit Corporation Act, one main purpose of FANCTS is “advocating and lobbying for the right of CTS students to gain a world-class championship field that can be used for 12 months of the year.”
Even though Central Tech’s local trustee is against the plan, the school is one step closer to achieving their field of dreams. Last November, Toronto District School Board trustees voted in favour of the field and dome.
“Outside of the school, we have faced backlash from the politicians that were elected to serve us, the public, and from the misinformed members of the community,” says Central Tech student council vice-president, Raymond Dang. “I believe that there is so much to be gained from collective action like this.”
Prior to the establishment of FANCTS, students drew attention to the field issue by writing letters, and staging walk-ins and protests against parties opposed to the idea.
Central Tech student council president, Helen Zhou, took the pen and paper approach and wrote a letter addressing neighbourhood members and businesses.
“When I wrote the letter, it was driven a lot by the fact that most of the people in the community don’t know what the student’s perspective is on the issue,” says Zhou.
These grassroots initiatives coordinated between fellow students, staff, and parents could not match the overweighing concerns of a minor variance, which has hindered the advancement of breaking ground on the field.
“To me, it’s a balancing of interests,” says Stephenson. “Yes, there will be perhaps some logistical challenges with the field, but those are small in the overall scheme of things and the interests of a few loud people in the neighbourhood cannot override, in my view, the best interests of 1,800 kids.”
While the field battle is not officially in the win column yet, FANCTS has provided hope to a cause that was almost lost.
“The fact that the school has an official, united group, can help send our message more powerfully,” says Zhou. “I think that it will definitely project our voices a lot stronger than we ever could have.”