The New Lady at the Helm

Jen has been involved in the Jane and Finch community since 1994.
Jen has been involved in the Jane and Finch community since 1994.

When former Inner City Outreach Executive Director Olu Jegede took on the role of lead pastor at Christian Centre Church in January 2016, the new opportunity meant that he could no longer serve in both capacities. The demands on his time because of the new position would create a challenge for him to fulfill both positions.
When searching for a suitable candidate, it made sense that Jennifer Jegede would take on the role of Exective Director due to her extensive experience working with Inner City Outreach over the years in many facets including fundraising, program facilitation, and administration. In addition, her previous career as a TDSB teacher gave her a unique perspective that would be of great benefit for an organization that serves children and youth.
Here is a compilation of interview responses to offer a brief snapshot of our new director.

“What I love most about living in the neighbourhood is simply the sense of being a part of it… I love seeing people that I have known for years.” – Jennifer Jegede

1.) How were you first introduced to the Jane and Finch neighbourhood?

I came to Toronto in September of 1994 in order study at York University. I stayed at Keele and Finch and started attending Christian Centre Church situated at Jane and Shoreham. Prior to moving to Toronto, I had never heard of Jane and Finch and had no knowledge of the area. My first impression of the area was that it was so diverse, it was interesting to see so many different people from all over the world living so close to one another.

2.) How did you become involved in the community?

I began volunteering at Christian Centre Church in the children’s programs. Looking back, the children and youth made the biggest impact on me. It was rewarding to become a source of strength and encouragement in their lives. Eventually a summer student job opened up and I was able to work throughout the summer months organizing camps and summer programs in the Jane and Finch community. We also took youth on camping trips. We did community visitations where we would walk through neighbourhoods and visit with people.

Horse riding - Jennifer (right) pictured with her husband Olu, left.
Outreach event with horse riding – Jennifer (right) pictured with her husband Olu, left.

3.) Share about your education and upbringing, and how it shaped you for your current role.

I was born in Sarnia, a mid-sized city in Ontario. My parents divorced when I was quite young, and as a result of that and other challenges, I grew up poor. We struggled financially and because of this, I think I have a personal understanding of the challenges that face families in our community.
Previously, I was a high school English teacher with the Toronto District School Board for 5 years. My background in education is invaluable in my role with Inner City Outreach as I have an understanding of how the Toronto education system works. In addition, I can implement good education practices that I have used in the classroom.


“I grew up poor..[because my family] struggled financially, I think I have a personal understanding of the challenges that face families in our community.” – Jennifer Jegede

4.) Why did your family move into the Jane and Shoreham neighbourhood?

In 2005 my husband, Olu, and I decided that we would like to live in the community we were serving. Until that time we had commuted from Etobicoke. We moved into the area so that we could expand our reach to people. Now, it is easy to meet the people that we serve on a daily basis: at the grocery store, walking down the street, at the doctor’s office, etc. In addition, we have a greater voice in addressing the problems because they are our problems too. I currently sit as school council chair at one of the neighbourhood elementary schools because my children go to school there. This is one example of how living in Jane and Finch allows us to be greater stakeholders in the community.
What I love most about living in the neighbourhood is simply the sense of being a part of it. I love being able to walk to work. I love knowing what is going on in my community. I love seeing people that I have known for years.

Jennifer (right) with Elmo at a community outreach event.
Jennifer (right) with Elmo at a community event.

5.) What has been the benefits and challenges of raising your four children in the Jane-Shoreham neighbourhood?

Jane-Shoreham is truly a great community. My children have been able to participate in many programs offered in the neighbourhood such as the Jane and Finch Tennis League, Urban Promise Camp, and Parks and Recreation Programs. They are blessed to live in an area where there are parks within walking distance and public transit close-by. They have been exposed to different cultures and diversity is the norm for them.
My children face some of the same challenges that all the children face in Jane and Finch. The threat of danger due to gang violence is real. One night my oldest son left to walk to a basketball practice. Just before he got there, he heard gun shots. He was literally across the street from a shooting where a few people were shot that night.
Other challenges are in regards to their education. Because my children attend school in the area, I have seen schools struggling under low funding, and unlike schools in more affluent areas where parents can fundraise to support the school, our schools are falling behind. In my kid’s school, the computers in the library no longer work. Classrooms don’t have computers. There are laptops that teachers can sign out, but there is only one class set to be shared between all the classes. I know that this is just one example of the challenges that our schools in the inner city face.

6.) Do you have any particular goals or aspirations for ICO?

I would like to see us work in more schools in our neighbourhood, bringing the support that kids need in order to succeed and partnering with schools to enhance classroom education.
I would also like to see more programming that taps into the passions of our youth and their creativity, especially in the Arts.