Dressed to the nines in dapper suits and glamorous dresses and evening gowns, a total of 120 high school students in the Rexdale community were celebrated last Saturday night for their participation in three community programs.
Through the Trust 15 community youth initiative started by Toronto District School Board educational assistant Marcia Brown, the young people are engaged in the Ladies on the Move, Men of Distinction and Girls on the Rise programs.
The Ladies on the Move and Men of Distinction programs cater to under-served and challenged youths between the ages of 13 and 20 in Etobicoke North.
Connected with mentors, professionals and community leaders, the young people are provided key networks which help them navigate challenges in and out of the classroom.
Anna Pottinger was introduced to the program by her sister Cleo who was a participant two years ago.
“Through the program, I am more confident and assured of myself,” said the 17-year-old York Humber High School student who migrated from Jamaica six years ago.
She aspires to be a nurse.
North Albion Collegiate Institute Grade 12 student Pablo Milandu was used to hanging out late at night with his friends.
“This program has provided me with a sense of responsibility and community,” he said. “It has put me on the right track, given me something positive to do after school and opened doors for me to network with some successful people in the community. I now know what I have to do to be successful.”
Milandu wants to be a banker.
For 17-year-old Martingrove Collegiate student Emmanuel Esefada, the program has been a positive experience.
“I have been given a chance to see life outside the little box I was in,” said the Nigerian immigrant who aspires to enter medical school. “I now have a perspective of where I want to go and what I need to do to lead a successful life.”
Jevon Parchment admits he was an introvert before joining the program.
“I now have good social skills and I am expressing myself much better,” said the 17-yrear-old North Albion Collegiate Institute. “I feel good about myself.”
Shanyse Jarrett, who attends Smithfield Public School, has become more outgoing and engaged.
“I now have a little more confidence in myself,” said the 13-year-old who wants to become a dance choreographer or teacher.
The Girls on the Rise after-school literacy program is for youths between the ages of eight and 12 who assemble at North Kipling Junior Middle School on Mondays to write in their journals and listen to a guest speaker read the story of an American Girl Doll.
Each of the popular line’s 11 dolls comes with a book series that chronicles the life of each, delving into their different cultural backgrounds and the historical eras from which they hail.
The recipient of the 2011 Ontario Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence, a proud Brown joined the young people on the red carpet to welcome guests, including news anchor Marcia Ien, TDSB school superintendent Jacqueline Spence and Michael “Pinball” Clemons, to the celebration.
“Showcasing the success of these young people means the world to me and them,” she said.
Earning the trust from the marginalized community and the 15 girls with whom she started the Ladies on the Move program led to the name, Trust 15.