Working with young people has occupied most of Carmen Brown-Harper’s professional life. As a teacher at Kingston College for a decade and a 15-year employee with HEART TRUST National Training Agency which aims to ensure that graduates use their skills to enhance productivity and competitiveness in Jamaica, it was not surprising that she would continue on a youth-focused path when she arrived in Canada.
Brown-Harper is the director of Trusteed and Special Projects at Tropicana Community Services Organization (TCSO) with responsibility for overseeing the “Summer Jobs for Youth” program.
Having been successful in surpassing the target for the program every year since her appointment six years ago, it’s fitting that Brown-Harper has been awarded a Toronto Community Foundation (TCF) Vital People grant that recognizes valued leaders who are making significant contributions working for non-profit organizations by supporting their continued training and professional development.
“Even though I am qualified, I was very excited when I was notified that I would be one of this year’s grant recipients,” Brown-Harper, who migrated from Jamaica in 2005, told Share.
She will use her $5,000 grant to expand her project management and human resource management skills at the Canadian Management Centre.
TCSO endorsed Brown-Harper’s grant application.
“She started off in our employment centre and because of her stellar work there, she was brought on to help develop our Summer Jobs for Youth Program,” said TCSO executive director, Sharon Shelton. “Carmen is one of the most organized and extremely principled people I have worked with and she runs that program like clockwork.”
Brown-Harper is also responsible for training staff from other cities in implementing their programs.
“A few years ago, fledgling organizations asked us to be their trustee for various programs and we created a position for Carmen to do that job,” said Shelton. “She’s the ideal person for that role.”
Youth leader Olalekan (Lekean) Olawoye is also one of this year’s grant recipients.
Growing up in Rexdale inspired him to want to work with youth and make a difference in their lives. For the past four years, he has been executive director of For Youth Initiative (FYI), a United Way agency that serves young people.
The Ryerson University Social Work graduate will use his grant to complete his Masters with a specialization in Social Service administration. Through his studies, he will gain critical knowledge pertaining to leadership in social service organizations which, coupled with his professional experience, will enable him to continue to effectively support FYI.
He was a 2011 DiverseCity Fellow.
DiverseCity Fellows co-founder, Naki Osutei, said Olawoye is a role model for young people.
“Lekan impressed me initially because of his commitment to advancing people who have been marginalized as a result of systemic barriers,” said the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games Organizing Committee lead for Diversity & Inclusion. “He continues to impress me because of his openness to learning and to having his thinking respectfully challenged.”
The TCF has invested more than $359,000 in the professional development of 75 city leaders since 2004. A total of $54,000 has been invested in this year’s 12 leaders.
By RON FANFAIR