In Grade Nine, Lorraine Murdock wanted to become a teacher. Her aspiration changed in Grade 10 to a mechanic and again in Grade 11 to a paramedic.
By the time she got to her last year of high school, the teenager hadn’t a clue what she really wanted to do.
“When I entered Grade 12, I was asking myself what I am going to do,” she said. “I was confused.”
Murdock was provided some direction when she enrolled last November in the Leadership, Empowerment, Achievement and Determination (LEAD) program which provides struggling high school students with life skills and helps them make a seamless transition to tertiary level education.
“Through LEAD, I learned things about myself that I didn’t know,” Murdock admitted. “I also have a career goal to work to.”
She plans to enrol in George Brown College’s health and fitness program this year.
The modular-based, 10-week program is designed for Grade 11 and 12 students who are considering post-secondary education options and employment opportunities.
“Sometimes, you have to go to those dark places to find how bright you are,” said Central Commerce Collegiate student Zuberi Attard who holds two part-time jobs and aspires to be a politician. “The LEAD program did that for me.”
Homeless after a disagreement with his mother, Attard lived in a hostel for a few months before moving in with relatives in Vaughan.
Toure Khaled didn’t know what to expect when he migrated two years ago from Burkina Faso.
Through the program, the 19-year-old made new friends and learned that Canada is a country with unlimited opportunities.
Khaled, who lives with a roommate, intends to pursue engineering in university.
A total of 12 students, representing three Greater Toronto Area school districts, graduated from the program last Saturday.
In the keynote address, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Michael Coteau told the graduating students he endured some of the challenges they face.
“When I left high school, I had a 62.5 per cent average and I was still two credits short of graduating,” he said. “That last summer was not fun because I had to attend summer school and work full-time and the only reason I was accepted to Carleton University is because they had an open door policy at the time. My average after the first year was ‘C’, but by the time I graduated, it was ‘A’. It took a lot of work.”
Coteau reminded the students they can be anything they want to be.
“Never let anyone tell you what you should become,” he said. “If you have an idea of what you think you should become or where you think you should be going, take advantage of it. Also, aspire to travel as that opens your mind to other cultures and ways of life. Explore beyond your comfort zone, be bold and live life to the fullest.”
Discouraged with politics after graduating from university in 1997 with political science and Canadian History degrees, Coteau headed to South Korea to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). He spent two years in the East Asia country.
Kensington Health chief financial officer Wendy Beckles, McMaster University associate professor Dr. Juliet Daniel and teachers Catherine Bruce and Nicole Baxter – the daughter-in-law of late Jamaica consul general Kay Baxter – started the program at Kensington Health Care Centre seven years ago.
Close to 120 students have passed through the program since its inception.
The other graduates were Harrison Gridler, Rhiannon Hamilton, Francesca Cheetam-Mount, Anna Zhang, Allyssa Guiste, Sherise Francis-Higgins, Aaron Guiste and Helen Zhou.