Kenroy Wilson knows the importance of having a dad around because he has been without one for most of his life.
Instead of bemoaning the absence, he’s using the burden of his father’s loss to provide young people with the tools for success.
When Ralph Wilson was murdered in South Carolina in 2000, his son was in high school preparing to meet his father, who had planned a trip to the Greater Toronto Area.
Angry and confused by the tragedy, Wilson was rescued by caring and concerned teachers.
A love of cars led to the young man securing co-op placements and a part-time job at Pickering’s Formula Ford and later full-time work at Honda, who also 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 four years ago that provides mentorship along with partnership and job opportunities for young people in the Durham community.
Over the years, he has partnered with local organizations and business owners, including Cadence Dance Academy which offers lessons, classes, performances and choreography in salsa, cha cha, urbanized cha cha, bachata, Afro-Cuban, dancehall and zumba.
“We know young people have an interest in the arts, particularly dance and spoken word,” said Clifton Stennett, who founded the company with Patrick Danquah five years ago. “It’s an honour for us to collaborate with the Wilson Project to offer youths opportunities that will help them lead positive and progressive lifestyles.”
Archbishop Denis O’Connor Catholic High School graduates Julian Gabriel and Kayle Neckles founded Touch of the Class Landscaping that offers custom sketching, interlocking, tree and snow removal, grading, sodding and other maintenance services.
“Partnering with the Wilson Project gives us an opportunity to raise our profile, mentor and also assist young people who might have an interest in the work we do,” said Gabriel.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute graduate, Ashley Williams, was grateful to Wilson for giving her an opportunity to photograph last Saturday’s fundraiser at the Deer Creek Golf & Banquet Facility in Ajax.
“This is my passion and I hope that it will lead to something big one day,” she said.
It’s not surprising that one of the Wilson Project’s biggest supporters is Fabian Reid, Wilson’s brother.
As a business developer with the provincial government, he assists challenged youths to secure employment, apprenticeships and educational opportunities.
“I work with companies to secure positions for these young men,” said the Dunbarton High School and university graduate. “We know that opportunity is all that most of our young people are looking for. My brother and I are committed to giving them that and opening the door for them.”
Ontario College of Art & Design graduate, Sharifa Alonzo, is doing the electrical drawings and blueprints to secure the city permits for the new Wilson project classroom at 147 Westney Rd. S. Unit 3.
The classrooms will be used to train and mentor youths during a three-month program that will provide them with, among other experiences, financial management, resume building and networking.