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A world in which immigration status is not a barrier to accessing meaningful and equitable education.


Who We Are

The Sanctuary Students Solidarity and Support Collective (S4) was formed in the fall of 2018 to address several challenges identified by precarious migrant and newcomer students (Sanctuary Students) at the threshold of post-secondary education in Ontario.


Sanctuary Students, for us, are people for whom immigration status and/or settlement stressors act, or have acted, as a barrier to accessing their secondary and post-secondary goals.

Our main objectives are to support Sanctuary Students with navigating various levels of education in Ontario; and to support programs and institutions to increase equitable access for these populations. As such, the group works to identify and respond to ongoing and emerging barriers that prevent the full and equitable participation of Sanctuary Students in existing educational institutions. Youth participating in the collective have described feeling more connected, supported and equipped with important knowledge and skill-sets. While we continue to grow, we recognize that there is a long road ahead...

Board of Director​s

Amy Soberano

Amy Soberano is a Registered Social Worker and has been working with sanctuary students as a front-line counselor in community-based settings since 2012. Her clinical work is focused at the intersections of migration, trauma, and identity, and she has published, consulted and taught at the post-secondary level around these topics. Amy strives to approach her therapeutic practice as politicized allyship work, through an evolving lens of intersectionality, tenderness, humility, and anti-oppression.

Vernetta Avril

Vernetta is a Sanctuary Student who is currently completing a BA in Cognitive Neuropsychology at York University Glendon campus as well as a BEd at York's Keele Campus. She holds certificates in Counselling, Community Mental Health and Crisis Intervention and Prevention. Vernetta is an experienced mentor in the York community as a Peer Mentor for first year students and Youth group Counsellor/Mentor in the community at large. She is passionate and enthusiastic about working with and helping individuals with precarious immigration status and effecting meaningful change in their lives. During her spare time, she enjoys reading and exploring nature.

Philip Ackerman

Philip has long been an adult educator who has been committed to working with newcomer youth in a wide range of community settings. He has been a strong advocate of access to education for newcomer and migrant youth, supporting several academic and community-based interventions around this issue over the past decade. More recently, since graduating from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) with an M.Ed in Adult Education and Community Development, Philip has been the Program Coordinator of the Social Service Worker: Immigrants and Refugees Program at Seneca College in Toronto, Canada. In addition, he is currently the Toronto coordinator for Equitas, supporting human rights-based education for marginalized groups of young people across Canada. 

Destin Bujang

With political unrest in Cameroon, Destin came to Canada in 2012 after graduating in the fields of
Journalism and Communications. He was a Volunteer at FCJ Refugee Centre where he eventually got hired as Special Events Coordinator and Resource Development Worker. He also worked as the Youth and Arts Program Coordinator of the Centre, creating and developing Community Action Projects for youth with precarious status, most significant, “The Art Between Us” and a collection of Refugee stories in a book Titled “Seeds of Hope: Creating a Future in the Shadows” Also working as the Youth Ambassador for the Canadian Council for refugees, he grew the passion for community work and leadership. He is now a student at York University, majoring in Human Rights and Equity Studies. Destin is the founder of a group in one of Toronto’s priotized neighborhoods called the Black Creek Youth Initiative in the Black Creek - Thrithewe neighborhood. This group engages young people of all ages to be involved in their community, while building connections as well as leadership skills.

Yvette Munro

Yvette Munro has over 15 years experience working in postsecondary education at various GTA postsecondary education institutions. Since 2018, Yvette has been the Executive Director of the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer and works with all publicly-funded colleges, universities and Indigenous institutes in Ontario to support students seeking to transfer between institutions. Yvette also worked as part of a team, supported by funding from the City of Toronto, on Canada's first bridging program and admissions pathway for students with precarious immigration status to pursue university degree studies at York University.

Varka Kalaydzhieva

Varka is the Project Manager of the Ministry for Social Justice, Peace, and Creation Care with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto. She has a law degree from Bulgaria and a Master in International Law from the University of Montreal. She has worked with international survivors of exploitation and human trafficking and sat on numerous networks to advocate for policy changes on the provincial and federal level.

Rufina Saeni

Rufina is the Tenant Services Worker at Houses Opening Today Toronto. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dalhousie University and recently graduated from Social Service Worker - Immigrant and Refugees program at Seneca College. Rufina also worked as a Social Service Worker intern with the Ministry for Social Justice, Peace, and Creation Care of Earth.

Bruna Figueiredo

Bruna has been an active member of the S4 Collective since its inception, being present in the creation of its logo and name! She's passionate to help create a city where precarious status is not a barrier to accessing basic rights, such as all levels of education. Working with other groups such as VJCJ, she has fought for equal rights in other sectors such as access to health and fair working conditions. Finally, as a BCOM student at York University, Bruna's enthusiasm to learn more about business is undeniable, which mixed with her unconditional love and compassion for all animals, were the main factors for starting her own business - Happy Paws.


Tanya Aberman (on leave)

Tanya Aberman has been working to increase access to education for sanctuary students in different capacities for over seven years. She has developed and coordinated community and university-based access to education programs, working with academic and community stakeholders, while focusing on and prioritizing the experiences and needs of sanctuary students. She has also co-authored several pieces based on the need for increased access to education. Tanya has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Concordia University, an MA from the University of Sussex in Gender and Development, and a PhD in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies from York University.

Elizabeth Barrera (they/them)

With a background in criminology and Indigenous studies, Liz seeks to understand the various intersections that affect newcomer youth who have to navigate the immigration system. Liz is also passionate about advocating for a curriculum that will switch the narrative from a western and colonized view to an Indigenous-based pedagogy. As the Interim ED, Liz seeks to create new and fun ways to engage new members in the collective, as well as to disseminate information that will benefit our community members.

Fatima Mohamed

Current Think Tank Training Centre student, working on becoming a character artist and working in the film industry. Her goal is to share her experiences navigating the education, and immigration system in Canada through story and art. She is a projection coordinator at S4 to help spread awareness about the various intersectionality’s affecting newcomer youth with a focus on immigration status.

Brantella Williams

Brantella is currently a Sanctuary Scholar at York University pursuing an Honors degree in Political Science. She is also the Project Coordinator at the Black Creek Youth Initiative (BCYI). As a root member of the S4 Collective, she has participated in and hosted numerous workshops, conferences, research, and art projects. She has also hosted numerous conferences with Seneca, York, Toronto Metropolitan University, and the University of Toronto to advocate for the admission of precarious persons into post-secondary institutions. She has also collaborated in research with People for Education (PFE) to encourage legislative power to implement access to education across Canada. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela


Annual Report

Our Annual Reports give us the opportunity to share our projects, activities and events from the last year. While things don't always go as we expect, our community comes together in new and amazing ways. Check out what we have been up to!

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