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An educational pathway from CrossroadsSchool to a master’s degree in Europe

An educational pathway from CrossroadsSchool to a master’s degree in Europe

12 July 2023

By Robin McCormick

Amanda Galusha has come a long way from her childhood in the halls of Crossroads School. She has recently been accepted to have the opportunity to earn her master’s degree in Europe.

Galusha returned to school at York University in 2019 to finish her degree while working full time at Lush Cosmetics as a sustainability coordinator. She shared with me, “I wanted to validate my work experience with school and a degree and was also wanting to explore more of the social and political underpinnings of the environmental crisis of climate change, pollution, consumption and waste.”

Amanda felt like she wasn’t making a big impact at Lush and thought a degree might open doors in policy and planning. When the pandemic hit, Amanda was laid off from Lush after 13 years of service, but she was able to secure work for an energy management consulting firm where she worked for a year designing strategic energy management training for industrial clients like Toyota, Tigercat, and General Dynamics in Eastern Ontario. Amanda continued to take classes toward her degree, though they moved online due to the pandemic. At the end of 2021, Amanda started her own consulting company, ReGrounded and worked with the Canadian Chemistry Industry Association for a year on an international project called Operation Clean Sweep which aims to keep microplastics out of the environment. One source of micro plastics in our oceans and watersheds comes directly from industrial plastic producers. This project was designed to support mitigating that loss during transport and production. There were challenges with implementing the program due to a lot of political contention between the government and plastic producers due to the government’s new legislation designating plastics as toxic and the various single-use plastics ban such as for bags and straws.

At the same time as starting ReGrounded, Amanda was given an opportunity to work on a research project with a York Professor as Project Manager. The project had researchers in New York, Melbourne and Toronto and examined how the pandemic impacted young racialized and/or LGBTQ2S+ youth and their access to risk in life with a special focus on sex and dating. Amanda shared, “We collected data through surveys, an online “COVID-19 Timeline” website and through one-on-one interviews with participants aged 16-21”. Amanda worked on the project for a year and a half and wrote her subsequent undergraduate honours thesis using the collected data. The research question her work aimed to answer was how various identities (such as race, gender, sexuality, religion and socioeconomic status) either helped or hindered participants’ access to taking risks during the pandemic related to their various intersecting identities, but also to explore the dignity of risk. 

“Everyone should have the right to take risks in life and love. This is part of healthy development and building a sense of personal identity. Risks are not always bad but access to risk is not distributed equally across race and gender lines,” she said.

This spring Amanda co-wrote a peer reviewed article with two of her professors that will be published in an upcoming issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. The article entitled, Decolonizing, Indigenizing and Making Space for Indigenous Girls Visiting York University which outlines a visit to campus that the Young Indigenous Women’s Utopia out of Saskatoon made last fall for their book launch and the learnings about reciprocity and decolonizing spaces that came to it.

Submitting her honours thesis this spring Amanda fulfilled her final requirement for the degree and she graduated Summa Cum Laude from York University Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change with an Honours degree in Environmental Management. Amanda hopes to turn the thesis into a published paper with the help of her advisor in the coming months.

After school finished Amanda secured a contract for the summer with Deciem Inc. The company makes a cult skin brand, The Ordinary. Amanda is working as a Sustainability Associate Manager. As much as having a full-time corporate job again has its perks, Amanda is hungry for more learning, and keen to move away from working with brands to more policy and planning. Amanda has also found Toronto to be very isolating and unaffordable in the face of more conservative policies and lack of funding around social support and mental health for residents.

When asked if she had teachers at Crossroads School or Fort Frances High School that encouraged or sparked her interest in further education, especially writing, Amanda didn’t have to think twice before replying, “I became interested when I was in Grade 8. I remember Mr. Jeff Johnston’s class at Cornerback, that’s where it really sparked in me. He was probably the first teacher that I remember identifying my strengths and gifts as a student and giving me positive feedback on them.”

Amanda remembers their school trip to Toronto, “we were visiting the McMichael Art Gallery and we did a tour with one of the gallerists.”  Amanda commented on the mood of one of the paintings and what it made her feel. She thinks it was one of Lawren Harris’s islands with its smoothed-out edges and beautiful use of blues and light.

“Mr. Johnston said how artists and writers often see the world in the same way or something like that. It really meant a lot. I remember he also used to give me Canadian poetry magazines for young people, and I remember reading an interview in one with Susan Musgrave, she said something about not worrying about grammar or the structure so much of a poem. Just focus on the creativity and the ideas,” she said. “I always wrote poems and stories after that, and I was really inspired by nature and landscapes. Mr. Johnston was a big inspiration. He was a scientist or maybe even an ecologist, but he also really appreciated and loved the arts, from what I could tell!”. 

Amanda shared, “I was also very supported in high school by Ms. Sharpe and I remember her reading my stories in class. I loved Mr. Zietelhofer and of course Mr. Mayhew. I had a very exciting opportunity to travel to Winnipeg for the Model United Nations with Mr. Zietelhofer and other students in Grade 10 where I represented the county of Zimbabwe. I also remember Mr. McManoman working hard to get a group of us to Costa Rica for a Canada World Youth Trip. All these experiences were amazing and wonderful risks that I took that helped to shape me as a young person. I truly hope similar opportunities are still happening in the school today. I hope young girls are being seen in the ways I was by my educators and that their ideas and creativity are being fostered. I struggled in school in many ways outside of academics, but I felt really supported by many of the facility.”

Amanda has been accepted to programs in Portugal at University of Porto for a master’s in Spatial Planning and Urban Projects and in Germany at University of Freiburg for a master’s in Environmental Governance.  Amanda will be deciding soon where to go this fall. 

“Through my master’s I hope to do research on issues of equity and gentrification in relation to urban sustainability projects and programs. Not only equity of race, class, and gender but also but also related to the divisions between the urban and the rural, how important resources move between and how land is used.”

Amanda ended our talk by saying, “I’m sad to leave my community garden, friends and bike riding along Lake Ontario behind me but I look forward to a new adventure and learning in Europe.”

* Amanda is the daughter of Ralph Galusha and Tamara Robson and my niece. 

I, along with Tamara and Aunt Nancy Galusha attended Amanda’s graduation on June 19th. We also attended the Class of 2023 EUC Convocation Reception with her. 

My favourite memory regarding Amanda’s education is when she was in a primary grade, she said to her parents at the supper table one evening, “I don’t know what we’re doing at school tomorrow, but Mrs. Weir said, “heads are going to roll!”

I wish Amanda all the best on her further studies, I’m extremely proud of her and know she will make the world a better place to live in!

Originally posted on Fort Frances Times