Master of Science in Global Health program graduate Hunster Yang has been recognized for his commitment to community service with the Millennium Award for Community Service, presented by the Graduate Students Association.
While completing his degree, Yang was actively involved in a number of local initiatives – from working with the Hamilton Community Benefits Network to promote equity and inclusion to building a youth-led community non-profit organization from the ground up.
“This award represents my passion for volunteering and getting involved with the community,” says Yang. “It means so much to me, mostly because it highlights the incredible work of the organizations that I’m lucky to be involved with.”
Last year, Yang co-launched the Institute for Youth Health and Development (IYHD), a non-profit funded by Toronto Public Health and several other youth-supporting organizations. IYHD aims to improve the health of racialized, immigrant, refugee, and newcomer youth living in Toronto.
As Director of Internal Affairs, Yang has played a key role in the development of the organization’s vision and culture, leading the recruitment, training and engagement efforts of IYHD’s 40-member team.
Yang’s role moving forward will involve overseeing the implementation of IYHD’s innovative youth participatory action research program, the Impact Incubator Fellowship.
“This program is designed to equip twelve racialized, immigrant, refugee, or newcomer youth aged 14-18 in Toronto with skills and resources to create their own community health action research projects,” Yang explains.
In addition to launching IYHD, Yang worked with the McMaster Research Shop, leading a five-person multidisciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students. He liaised with community partners and was lead author on a report to inform a Hamilton City Council proposal on best practices of Community Benefits Agreements to promote equity and inclusivity in Hamilton.
Yang was also Partnerships Lead for the Canadian Global Health Students and Young Professionals Summit – one of Canada’s largest student-run global health conference – and worked with McMaster’s Health Sciences Graduate Students Federation to plan and facilitate graduate student events, including a mental health and wellness workshop.
Born in Toronto, Yang studied neuroscience at Western University before joining the Global Health program. During his undergraduate degree, he volunteered with Autism Awareness Western for more than three years and was President in his final year of studies.
“It’s important to find your passion and create a difference within your capacity, no matter how big or small, to create a more equitable and healthy society for all,” says Yang, who hopes to continue working in the public and global health field, specifically working within local communities.
“We need to focus on our own backyard, because it’s equally important to improve health equity in Canada as it is abroad,” he says.