Aiming high on and off the court, Taijon Eccleston-Graham is redefining what it means to be a business student athlete. With stellar leadership skills, Taijon is advocating for inclusivity and pushing boundaries in the business world.
Growing up playing basketball, my dream job has always been to be a professional basketball player, whether it was in the NBA or overseas. As I head into my third year this upcoming fall, I’m looking to embark on new career opportunities that would somehow combine my love for sports and business skills.
I want to help create an organizational culture that is predicated on inclusion and celebrating the diversity of employees. A culture that includes passionate employees wanting to make a difference in racialized/marginalized communities by creating/offering programs to youth that will provide opportunities to excel in a bevy of different ways. My dream position is where I could impact the sports business industry from an organizational behavioural aspect. A perfect example of this that I’ve seen would be the newly created Director of Diversity & Inclusion position at MLSE.
Reflecting on my past experiences of this year, I can say it’s been phenomenal from a standpoint of growing my leadership skills. As a student-athlete on the Nipissing University Men’s Basketball team, I co-founded and am president of a club for Black students on my school’s campus called NUBASE (Nipissing University Black Association for Student Expression).
Secondly, I founded an alliance called Athletes for Change, which is comprised of newly formed BIPOC student-athlete-led groups across Ontario post-secondary institutions. Our main goal is to use the platform of sports to promote positive messages and ignite change in local communities. Those opportunities graciously led to me being named the BIPOC Student Liaison of the Black Canadian Coaches Association (BCCA), where my role is to recruit, connect and empower BIPOC student-athletes across Canada.
In addition to having all these titles, I co-host Nipissing University’s podcast called the Lakers LockerRoom. If that isn’t enough, I also run my own video production business called Tgmixproductions, which entails making highlight tapes for USports basketball athletes across Canada, including some in the CEBL.
When I was growing up alongside other kids, my reading comprehension was very low in comparison and I had difficulties with social cues. That’s due to the fact that I was born with a learning disability. I was projected to never be able to learn another language and require special education up until high school.
This made me a very determined student and helped me develop a resilient personality in everything I do. After one year, I left special education and have since then received my IB certificate, French certificate and was an Ontario scholar in high school. If I were to pick my greatest achievement up to this point, it would have to be graduating from the International Baccalaureate program as 1 of 3 Black students out of a graduating class of 40 students. That equates to a 7.5% representation! It was very fulfilling to have the teachers put that IB medal around my neck and validate all my hard work from the last two years. Especially considering I had the disadvantage of entering the program two years after everyone else did. This forced me to have to work harder than everyone else. Currently, I am on my way to receive a university degree in Honours Business Administration.
As of recently, I have been told that the workplace is doing a better job of their hiring processes, in terms of focusing on whether the individual can do the job, rather than what school they went to. This is exciting for me because hopefully, this decreases the opportunity of systematic oppression. According to Statistics Canada, Black Canadians are 12.5% more likely than non-racialized Canadians and other visible minorities to be unemployed. As a Black man being cognizant of this alarming statistic, I hope that this will improve the diversity in the workplace and provide well-deserving candidates tremendous opportunities to establish a promising career.
My family is my inspiration. When I was born, my mother quit her job to take care of me and went back to school to earn her advanced diploma in Child and Youth Care. As an eight-year-old, seeing her walk across that stage showed me that when you put your mind to something, you can do it. To this day, I don’t know how she went to school while taking care of two sons at the same time, but what I do know is that she did accomplish what she set out to do. Her efforts gave my brother and I a better life. A year after graduating, my parents moved us from our apartment to the current townhouse we have lived in for the last twelve years.
Then there’s my father, who inspires me in how he managed to maintain his work/life balance. Between working the night shift at Canada Post and being a great dad and coach, he was always taking me to all my basketball practices. He pushed me from a young age to be the best I could be academically, and I have most certainly reaped the benefits from his persistence.
Another source of inspiration is my big brother who graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer Engineering. As a young teen, this was an impressionable moment for me as it demonstrated that it was possible for a Black man, who came where I came from, to go to university and make something of his life and have a great career.
In a grand scheme of things, I think my greatest achievement has yet to come. With all the initiatives I’ve created and joined over the last year, I know with my trust in God that there will be greater achievements for me on the horizon. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me when I graduate university and look back at my post-secondary career as a student-athlete and activist.
A quote that I created that puts all my experiences in perspective and I hope when people read it they can resonate:
Don’t let the trials and tribulations you go through in life define who you are, but how you overcome them define who you are.
What this quote means is that everyone is going to go through their own trials and tribulations, but it’s how you overcome them that builds your character and defines who you are. It’s important to always turn your losses into your lessons and use that to become a better version of yourself. EVOLVE EVERYDAY!