After a trip to Ghana 10 years ago, Peter Amponsah was greatly impacted by the music, sounds, theatre and passion of some local community drummers at an event he attended. “In that moment, I committed myself to my own personal journey with the drum," says the Professor in Sheridan's Child and Youth Care program.
Peter Amponsah, Professor, Child and Youth Care program, Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies
“I wanted to become a holder and disseminator of traditional music, songs and stories. So I came back to Toronto and sought out master drummers in the city who would be willing to mentor me.” With the guidance of drummers like Troy ‘Nation’ Cheong, Amponsah met his goal and for the last three years he has been one of the lead drummers for Ijo Vudu African Dance Company. He now teaches to youth groups across the city while continuing to study.
Through the language of drumming, Amponsah communicates the importance of identity and tradition to the well-being of our communities. “They remind us of our histories, where we’ve come from and who we are. This helps us to understand where we are going. An Akan, West African proverb says, ‘Sankofa; return and fetch it’ (in order to go forward).”
It is a message that Amponsah imparts to his students. Fuelled by a passion for equipping individuals to work with the most marginalized young people, Amponsah brings more than 15 years of experience in frontline, management and governance positions in the child and youth care sector to his teaching role. Much of his time was spent at the Peel Children’s Aid Society as a Community Engagement Worker, and providing support to the Anti-Oppression & Diversity Department.
In turn, Amponsah brings the lessons he gained from his direct involvement with at-risk, criminally-involved youth to his students. “It is through my work with this population that I experienced some of the greatest learning, including the importance of establishing relationships in our therapeutic roles,” says Amponsah who joined the Child and Youth Care program in 2015, following a year of teaching within the Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies.
I challenge my students to find the relevance in what they are doing in the classroom for their practice.
Providing a learning experience that marries hands-on skills and scholarship – a hallmark of a Sheridan education – also factors highly in his teaching, says Amponsah, who holds a Masters of Social Work from the University of Windsor.
“I often talk about the value of praxis (where theory and practice meet), and challenge my students to find the relevance in what they are doing in the classroom for their practice.”
Given his first-hand knowledge of the child and youth care field in the GTA, Amponsah knows the impact that comprehensively trained graduates can bring to our community and he welcomes the current move toward a professional designation for the field.
“Such a broad sector shift will see the unique skills of child and youth care workers recognized along with those of their brother and sister professionals in social work, psychology and community development.”