Devastated by his father’s murder 12 years ago, Kenroy Wilson wanted to vent his anger on anyone who crossed his path.
Ralph Wilson was murdered in South Carolina in 2000, leaving his then high school son – who he had planned to visit in the Greater Toronto Area a month before his tragic death – angry and shattered.
Had it not been for the intervention of caring and concerned teachers, Wilson might have gone down the wrong road.
“I was very close to my dad and I just wanted to hunt someone down and hurt them real bad,” Wilson, who came to Canada with his mother two decades ago, said. “That was my state of mind at the time. Sensing my anger, a few teachers sat me down and told me there was no point in me doing that because I might end up dead like my dad or go to jail. That was a real rough period for me because I did not know what I wanted to do in life. I loved cars and putting things together so one of my teachers suggested I could try doing body work and painting cars in cool colours or become a mechanic.”
The second suggestion appealed to Wilson who did co-op placements and worked part-time at Pickering’s Formula Ford and then Honda who hired the youth full-time and enrolled him in Centennial College’s Acura/Honda 32-week automotive service technician apprenticeship program where he was exposed to classroom training and work experience with an Acura/Honda employer.
Graduating as a licensed technician, Wilson spent nearly six years with Honda before leaving in 2006 to set up his own business, Ken Co’s Car Care Inc. in Pickering.
Remembering the pivotal role teachers played in rescuing him, Wilson is giving back to his community in a big way. He mentors young Black boys who are distracted, frustrated and have been in trouble with the law and provides job training opportunities at his mechanic shop.
He also started the Wilson Project two years ago to raise scholarship funds for young people. The second annual fundraising banquet was held last Saturday night at Ajax Community Centre.
“There are people out there who encouraged and supported me when I was down and out and I will never forget that,” the married father of two said. “I want to do the same now for kids who have the potential and just need a hand-up to pursue their dreams.”
Ajax-Pickering Member of Parliament, Chris Alexander, who attended the fundraising banquet, is very impressed with Wilson’s commitment and dedication to making a difference in his community.
“In our community, an initiative like this is so productive,” said Alexander who served as a member of Canada’s Foreign Services for 18 years. “It doesn’t happen every day that a whole community rallies behind one man’s vision and energy. He hits the issues where we all know they count the most and that’s grassroots and helping youths through mentoring and giving them the practical experience to unlock their potential. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Teenager, Gehrico Johnson, who has been in trouble with the law, was referred to Wilson last week by the Durham Catholic District School Board. He helped set up the banquet hall for the fundraiser and in the process acquired some of the 25 hours he needs to graduate from high school.
“I have made mistakes and got myself into some trouble,” acknowledged the 19-year-old who attended Denis O’Connor Catholic High School in Ajax. “That really give me a big setback, but now I am working towards getting my credits and community hours and leading a productive life.”
Johnson aspires to be a restaurant owner.
Antonio Abraham, who migrated from St. Lucia nearly three years ago, was referred to Wilson by a friend.
“I was looking for an opportunity and Kenroy provided that,” said Abraham. “That was all I wanted.”
The recently formed Canadian Caribbean Cultural Association of Durham (CCCAD) is an integral supporter of the Wilson Project.
“He came to our launch in March and we were very impressed with the work he’s doing to improve the lives of young people and his entrepreneurial drive,” said CCCAD secretary, Marcia Rodney.
Wilson, 29, expects to present the first set of scholarships at next year’s banquet.
Individuals interested in donating to the scholarship fund can go to www.wilsonproject.org for more details.
BY RON FANFAIR