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Toni Morgan

Social Change Activist

Toni’s passion for social justice began as a homeless high school dropout working in Toronto’s most underserved communities. At the age of 17, she was kicked out of her third school and told she would never get a university degree. Toni left school vowing to never return and instead immersed herself in activist work, spending most of her days discussing youth issues at Toronto City Hall. She soon became a recognized advocate on issues of equity, diversity, inclusion and marginalization.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Presentations

Harvard Bound: Your Personal Story
How do you go from homeless to Harvard? Toni shares the three stories that shaped her journey and the lessons she’s learned along the way. From her experiences being kicked out of high school and being told that she’d never get a university degree, to her 10-year journey to complete her undergraduate degree and her eventual arrival at Harvard, Toni shares what it feels like to walk on a journey alone for 15 years unsure of whether her teachers were right— and the sudden reversal of fate when she’d successfully proven them wrong. By the end of this presentation, audiences will not only learn about Toni’s colorful and unconventional path to Harvard, but how the lesson she learned can be applied beyond the Ivy League.

Self-Care as a Radical Act: Mental Health for Students
Self-care is a radical act. In this talk designed for students, Toni challenges the myths and stigmas around mental health and paths to wellness for students. Using her own personal narrative of homelessness, activism, community work and Harvard, provides audiences with a toolkit to manage the range of stress triggers that often impede student success. By including intersectional identities, her approach to wellness— sometimes called ‘humanistic wellness’— allows students from a diverse range of experiences identify, confront and conquer the challenges that distract them from being the person they aspire to become. 

Access & Equity for a Diverse Student Population
What are some of the blind spots that schools and administrators face in their mission to create inclusive schools? How do we build school cultures that allow students and staff to learn and grow harmoniously? What are some of the best practices used to build the school of the 21st century? Toni’s work as a leader, community educator, anti-oppression trainer and post-secondary professor have has helped shape positive student cultures. In this talk, Toni discusses the ways the proliferation of new technologies, the evolution of peer-to-peer engagement and the shift in legal and the policy realms have transformed the landscape for access and equity work in 21st-century education.

Crowdfunding like a Boss: Audacious Storytelling For Big Ideas
This is a talk for students and entrepreneurs with big goals and little resources. As more organizations and individuals turn to crowdfunding platforms to launch their projects and ideas, it’s becoming harder to break through the noise to mobilizing people around an idea. Toni will teach audiences the best practices and how to create stories for effective crowdfunding. Using lessons her own viral campaigns and case studies she’ll show anyone can create a crowdfunding story that turns social media likes into funding.

Awards

2010
City of Toronto | Human Rights and Equity Award

2006
NOW Magazine | Next Generation of Black Leaders in Toronto
Second Chance Awards for Black Canadians

2005
YWCA | Young Woman of Distinction
Flare Magazine | Volunteer of the Year


  • Toni was fantastic! I heard the delegates referencing her presentation for the duration of the conference. She is very easy to relate with and is motivating. Her use of questions, video and interaction was appreciated.

    - Education Department, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees

Summary Profile

Toni’s perspective on issues ranging from poverty to education and youth employment were refreshing additions to the media and at civic roundtables. She became a contributor and blogger for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, as well a featured activist in NOW Weekly and Chatelaine Magazine.

After being inspired to complete her high school diploma, Toni attended Ryerson University and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Equity & Diversity in 2008. Still committed to her community work, Toni divided her energy between school and her youth work in Toronto’s west end. In 2005, Toni was also chosen as a Canadian guardian of the Women’s Global Charter, rallying over 20,000 women to speak out against injustice in Canada.

At the age of 22, only a year after starting her program at Ryerson, Toni was hired to launch and manage Women Moving Forward (WMF), a $1M initiative designed to inspire young mothers to pursue post-secondary education. Toni transformed the program using her personal experiences and commitment to diversity and equity in education. To date, WMF has helped hundreds of women and their children breaking the cycle of poverty through post-secondary education and training. The program received critical acclaim and was awarded by the Toronto Community Foundation as a “Vital Idea”, bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.

Following her work at WMF, Toni moved to the social housing sector, becoming the youngest senior manager in the organization. Her work in partnerships, social enterprise and strategy helped to change the conversation about affordable housing from a peripheral one to central one. When asked about her unconventional career path, Toni credits her unique brand of activism, her entrepreneurial spirit and her unwavering dedication to fairness and equity in systems. Toni has also founded Medina, a media literacy collective for young women interested in bringing feminist voices to pop culture. Today Toni is the head of strategy and programs at The Beat Academy, an arts and tech academy serving youth in Canada and the US. She has also become a sought after speaker on Leadership, Community Mobilization and Fundraising, after crowdfunding $71K in 48 hours to attend Harvard University, where she is now pursuing a Master’s in Education.