Earlier this year, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) launched Young Women on the Move as a vehicle to foster mentorship programs among teachers and female students and create relationships while building confidence and self-esteem.
Dr. Chris Spence, the director of education for the TDSB, said the new initiative was prompted by his belief that one caring adult can make all the difference to a young person, adding that significant learning cannot take place without a significant relationship.
Prior to joining the TDSB last year, he started the Boys 2 Men initiative, aimed at helping troubled young Black males turn their lives around, the Read to Succeed program that encourages and teaches boys to read and Project G.O. (Girls Only).
Spence recently attached his name to a new public awareness campaign created in 1999 by kids.now, a national charity for youth development.
Who’s Your Mentor? is an online video series featuring prominent Canadians talking about the mentors who inspired them and the importance of mentoring.
Spence listed his father, brother, teachers and football coaches (he’s a former Canadian Football League running back) as his mentors and role models.
“There are people out there who encourage you, support you, pray for you, sacrifice for you,” he said. “When you have that person in your life, you are going to have better outcomes…I think the biggest and greatest gift you can give is your time.”
At a private screening of kids.now’s first-ever national public awareness campaign to support youth mentoring at Queen’s Park, Lt. Gov. David Onley stressed the importance of mentoring.
“Mentoring can make all the difference in the world to kids who might not realize their own potential,” said Onley. “The adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is only partially correct. I believe it takes a committed mentor to absolutely transform a child’s life for the best.
“Young people need committed and enduring relationships with adults who care. It’s true they also need support, assistance and encouragement. It’s especially true for those who are vulnerable or at risk.”
Onley praised Spence and kids.now for stepping up to the plate to make a difference in young people’s lives.
“By being involved as you are, you fulfil a vital role in our society,” he said. “Mentoring is also rewarding for both parties in that the young person gets the confidence, motivation and skills to succeed while the mentor achieves the profound satisfaction of literally changing a child’s life. I can think of no achievement more noble or rewarding than that.
“You are helping make this a better city, province and country. Don’t ever forget that what you are doing is one of the things that make this country great.”
Janet King, kids.now founding president, said the message the campaign delivers loud and clear is that there is a mentor behind every successful person.
“Many of the people profiled in this campaign credit mentors in their formative years for their current success,” she said. “This underscores the fact that today’s young people need access to caring adult mentors who can help provide them with the skills and self-confidence they need to be tomorrow’s success stories.”