Just mention the word “opportunity” and Omar Goodgame’s face lights up. He quickly acknowledges that if he was denied the chance to be part of the MicroSkills’ North Albion Boys Club, he might be dead or possibly incarcerated.
“If it was not for the program, I am not sure what I would be doing out there,” said Goodgame who grew up in a single-parent household in Rexdale and has had a couple of run-ins with the Toronto police. “It helped me to see the other side of life and gain a perspective of what I could do to be a meaningful member of society. I moved from having tunnel vision to widening my perspective and how to see the world and society.”
Often suspended, and kicked out of school on several occasions in Grade Nine, Goodgame graduated from high school and completed Humber College’s Social Work program. As a full-time case manager at a shelter, he’s now assisting young people facing some of the challenges he encountered a few years ago.
The York University Social Work student was one of the recipients of the MicroSkills youth leadership award presented at the organization’s 13th annual awards banquet last week in Brampton.
“Omar came to us with some baggage,” admitted MicroSkills’ executive director Kay Blair. “But in no time at all, he straightened himself out and gained the respect of his peers. He went back to school, made the honour roll and graduated…You may be living in poverty, but that should not define your future as Omar has shown.
“We know that young people will make mistakes, but having someone guide and open doors for them makes a big difference and it helps youth to dream again.”
Sharon Lucas, born in Canada to Barbadian parents, had always dreamed of being a cook and her mother encouraged her at a young age to be creative in the kitchen.
“She would tell me to go and cook anything when she realized that was my passion, and that was exactly what I did,” said Lucas, a mother of three young boys. “I however realized that cooking and baking for a living means more than just being confined to a kitchen. You have to know how to manage your business if you want to be a successful entrepreneur and that’s where MicroSkills has come in to help me to achieve the knowledge to do things like create a business plan.”
Lucas plans to use her newly acquired business skills to expand her culinary business, “Nothing but Sweetness”, that specializes in West Indian and Canadian dishes. She caters for both private and public events and can be reached at (416) 802-5793.
Sasha Allison knew at a very young age that she wanted to work for herself. She however could not figure out how she could do that successfully until enrolling in the MicroSkills program a year ago.
“The program helped me to focus and develop a business plan and self-confidence in my ideas and abilities,” said the mother of two, who was born in Montreal to Jamaican parents.
Six years ago, Allison established Living Legends Entertainment (LLE) that provides public relations services to artists and cultural organizations, and the African Canadian Children’s Literary Festival (www.acclf.com) that’s in its fifth year.
With her new business tools, Allison plans to re-brand LLE and formally do a launch in the summer.
Allison and Lucas received MicroSkills Entrepreneur awards launched in 1988 to recognize the organization’s Women’s Enterprise and Resource Centre graduates.
For the past 27 years, MicroSkills has provided aspiring immigrant and visible minority women entrepreneurs with a physical location to operate their business, network and also share resources, information, experience and expertise through the Etobicoke-based Women’s Enterprise and Resource Centre self-employment program.
Beginning with just four full-time staff, four computers and a budget of about $300,000, the service organization now employs 159 staff and serves nearly 20,000 clients each year with an operating budget of $12 million.
“We serve a chunk of the Greater Toronto Area and it’s all about going to where the clients are,” said Blair, who is a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).
In 2006, the multicultural non-profit community-based organization unveiled the Margot Franssen Leadership award to honour the Order of Canada recipient and former Body Shop of Canada president and partner who has helped the Canadian Women’s Foundation raise thousands of dollars for violence prevention and recovery programs for women.
This year’s winner is Centennial College’s president and chief executive officer Ann Buller, who was recognized for her leadership in supporting access for women to opportunities in the skilled trades, her dedication to empowering women to champion meaningful changes in their chosen careers and her role in creating systemic changes within institutions that demonstrate a commitment to social justice and responsibility.