The idea is what matters at UTS – the debate – not your age or where you stood in the social scheme of things. “If you had the best idea, people gravitated towards that,” says Gavin Pitchford ’76, just one of many reasons why he gives his support to UTS as a donor and volunteer. “UTS taught me to think, and to listen.”
An entrepreneur by nature as the CEO and Founder of Delta Management and the Executive Director of the Canada’s Clean50 Awards, Gavin lends his expertise to the Timeraiser Accelerator, a UTS afterschool program for aspiring tech and social entrepreneurs, where students develop business concepts and vie for the opportunity to receive alumni mentorship and advice.
Partnered with M4 (Grade 10) students Nicole and Mia, he’s helping them with strategy, budgeting and raising funds for their start-up non-profit, Future4U, which aims to address a significant gap in post-secondary planning tools where students with developmental or intellectual delays and disabilities are underserved, by creating a national website of resources for students, teachers and parents.
“Most people graduating high school have a plethora of opportunities presented to them, but if you’re living with learning disabilities or delays, you don’t hear about options for you,” says Gavin. “And yet there are programs out there that nobody knows about, and Nicole and Mia are helping to identify what those opportunities are and fill that gap.”
Mia and Nicole’s non-profit idea, which won the UTS Timeraiser Accelerator’s $1,000 entrepreneurial investment, emerged from their involvement with the Best Buddies program through UTS partner school Heydon Park.
“How do you take this great idea and make this real?” is the question Gavin is helping Nicole and Mia address. “The objective is to get Future4U set up as a charity so that their program is self-sufficient even after they leave UTS.” Right now they’re seeking an alumni volunteer to serve as a pro-bono lawyer to help with the process (Interested? Send an email to email@example.com). They’re also looking for any employers who have opportunities for graduates with learning delays or disabilities.
The website is already well underway, starting as a Toronto-focused resource, with plans to scale up province-wide and then nationally. As Gavin is the Year Rep for the Class of 1976, many of his classmates have jumped in to support Future4U.
“Nicole and Mia are just really remarkable,” says Gavin. “That they would see the need, come up with the idea and then invest their own time, putting so much effort into working on a social problem. It’s a totally selfless act, finding that extra time to help others. And a perfect example of why I am proud to be an alumni, and to continue to support the school.”