Tonika “Toni” Morgan is an activist with an instinct for innovation. Beginning in 2001 as a young, homeless, high school drop out, Toni has become a vocal advocate for equity and fairness in music, education and housing. She uses her experiences to inform her work, resulting in successful and award-winning community initiatives with partners in the non-profit and education sectors. Whether it’s designing education re-integration programs with Ryerson University, helping single mothers break the cycle of generational poverty in Jane/Finch or helping young music producers secure jobs and opportunities in the US, she has been an unwavering force for the marginalized. As a young professional, Toni has worked on a number of issues and projects in Toronto, but the thread that weaves her story together is the theme of education.
At 17, Toni was officially written off by the education system. She had been kicked out of numerous schools and failed a plethora of courses. She had also missed hundreds of hours of school each year. School administrators and teachers didn’t care much for her. So nobody ever bothered to ask why she missed so many classes or failed her courses. Toni was homeless and found it hard to balance having a place to live, doing homework, getting a job and getting to school on time. She was ashamed to admit that she was struggling. Eventually, she was kicked out of school- leaving with a contemptuous verdict of her future by her vice principal: “You’ll never get a university degree”.
In the 10+ years since that conversation, Toni has become a celebrated community leader as the 2005 Young Woman of Distinction, the Flare Magazine Volunteer of the year and the 2010 Constance Hamilton Award for Human Rights for Women and Girls to name a few. She has designed initiatives that have garnered international attention in social enterprise, education and social housing. In 2014, Toni scaled up the work at the Beat Academy and produced the first sponsored event of the Toronto-Austin Music Alliance at South by Southwest, the world’s largest music festival. She continues to be an advocate for people who are often forgotten or marginalized in large systems. Then came Harvard University.
In 2015 Toni was accepted to Harvard. Her lived experience as a student pushed out of the system, coupled with her work as an activist and innovator in the arts and education will bring credibility to her work in community. While Toni will be well positioned to work in any school board in the world, she is more interested in using her training to better integrate the worlds of music, education and technology as a practitioner, leader and innovator. At Harvard, she will have the opportunity to enroll in the any Harvard School (Law, Business, etc.) as well as MIT. Combined with her extensive work experience and passion for community, Toni knows that her education will uniquely position her as a valuable resource to youth and the education sector. Her hope is that she can transform the conversation about human potential- whether it’s through music, activism or mentorship- so that the education system and all other systems that overlook a person’s potential change for the better.