A Durham faith leader is advocating for a national youth development policy that will create relevant strategies and programs for young people to become productive citizens.
Word of Truth Christian Centre’s founding pastor, Bishop Joseph Fisher, was instrumental in the establishment of a Family Life Community Resource Centre six years ago that administers the Skills Link Employment program which helps immigrants and young Canadians obtain useful career information, develop skills, find suitable jobs and remain employed.
At last Friday’s graduation ceremony for 12 youth who successfully completed the six-month program, Fisher encouraged all three levels of government to join hands with his centre and other community non-profit organizations to develop and coordinate a youth framework.
“I believe there needs to be a greater emphasis placed on youth development,” said Fisher. “Many of our young people lack employable skills because they have dropped out of high school. Ill equipped and unemployed youth become frustrated and that leads to what we saw in England this week with all the mayhem.
“With cost-cutting, several youth programs have been affected in this city. If we don’t provide opportunities for our young people to thrive and succeed, we can have the same kind of violence here that we saw across the pond.”
In the presence of Scarborough-East/Pickering Member of Parliament Corneliu Chisu, Fisher announced the federally-funded youth program would be extended to include young people in the recently elected politician’s riding.
“I believe that what we have here should not just be unique to us,” he said. “It should be open to everybody else and that’s why our next intake next month will be advertised in Scarborough East. It’s part of my vision of opening Family Life Centres across this country.”
Fisher congratulated this year’s first intake and urged them to surround themselves with successful individuals.
“Build relationships with people who are going somewhere,” he said. “We become the people whom we surround ourselves with.”
The program, which boasts an 80 per cent success rate, has helped turn around many young people’s lives.
A year ago, Philemon Olliver was seriously questioning whether he had made the right decision in migrating to Canada four years ago from St. Vincent & the Grenadines to pursue higher education and better opportunities.
“I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have a place I could call home,” the 25-year-old said. “I was very frustrated, depressed and unhappy because there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Nothing was happening for me.”
Through his social worker, Olliver enrolled in the program which offered a computer component this year that allowed participants to assemble and rebuild mainframes.
“This program has put me on my foot again and given me hope,” said Olliver who plans to pursue Information Technology at a college or university. “I now have a clear idea of what I want to do and how I can get there. Before this, I had no sense of what existed out there for me or how I could achieve anything meaningful.
“I now know that I am good at trouble shooting and fixing computers and I can work with several types of software applications.”
J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate graduate Daniel Blagrove said he has benefitted immensely from the program.
“I am more confident when it comes to speaking and I now know what it takes to accomplish goals,” said Blagrove who enters the University of Ontario Institute Of Technology next month to pursue Mechanical Engineering.
The other graduates were Katie Belbin, Karene Brooks, Jessica Chin-King, Yannick Green, Jordan Henry, Aaron Jullian, Joshua Myrie, Christopher Pertab, Samuel Taylor and Maranda DeGrasse.