Patience and compassion are necessary virtues needed in challenging circumstances.
Marcia Brown found them both while dealing with her son, who has special needs and those special qualities have been extended to young people in her Rexdale neighbourhood.
When 17-year-old Kipling Collegiate Institute Grade 12 student, Isaiah Brown, was diagnosed with autism in 2002, his mother quit her full-time job as an accounts payable clerk to stay at home and be close with the younger of her two children.
Spending a lot of time at Highfield Junior School where he was enrolled led to positive interactions with other students, which caught the attention of then-principal David O’Brien, who suggested that Brown would be a huge asset to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).
He was on target.
The TDSB educational assistant started the Trust 15 organization that encompasses the Men of Distinction, Ladies on the Move and Girls on the Rise programs that promote and facilitate positive behaviour, creative expression and co-operative working skills.
Earning the trust from the marginalized community and the 15 girls with whom Brown started the Ladies on the Move program led to the name, Trust 15.
Brown’s work has not gone unnoticed in the community.
Last May, the Rotary Club of Toronto West invited her to speak to their members.
“Marcia brought her son and we were really inspired by what she had to say,” said the club’s president, Patricia Wright, who presented Brown with a Youth Impact Award at the club’s 16th annual awards gala last Friday night at The Old Mill Inn. “It’s apparent that everything she does come from the heart and that’s so refreshing. She also radiates compassion for what she believes in.”
Toronto Police deputy chief Peter Sloly, who is on the Trust 15 board of directors, attended the awards ceremony.
“I am a big fan of Marcia for the work that she does mentoring and uplifting so many young men and women in the Rexdale community,” he said. “The quality of her programs reduces the quantity of reactive police work in the neighbourhood. I joined the board to help her continue to improve and increase the scope of her programs that are supporting high potential kids living in elevated risk circumstances.”
The 2011 recipient of the Ontario Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence, Brown said she was humbled by the honour.
“When I realized the patience and understanding it took to deal with individuals with special needs after my son was diagnosed, I knew I had to do more to not only make life easier for him but all the other young people who face challenges and hardships and need a helping hand,” she said. “That’s why I have devoted so much of my time trying to understand their needs and having that conversation. We are not listening to our youths any more. I hear what they want and need and I grab it.”
Brown provides mentors for her program participants.
“If they want a doctor or chief executive officer, I get them that person,” she said. “You never know the impact that individual might have on them and where it may lead. Those networks for them are important.”
Brown’s older child, Re’gina Brown, is a fourth-year University of Windsor kinesiology student.