Valencia Nembhard firmly believes in the ‘it takes the village to raise a child’ concept.
For the past three years, the Brampton resident has been offering tutoring services in French and life skills to a handful of neighbourhood youths. The free private lessons culminate with an end-of-summer educational trip.
Last Saturday, Nembhard took eight young people to the Ontario Science Centre (OSC) which plans to open its first new permanent exhibition hall – it will be devoted to the human body – before the end of the year. In previous years, she accompanied the youths to a French circus and a local park.
“I do these trips to help motivate and stimulate the minds of young people within the community as they prepare to go back to school in September,” said Nembhard. “I strongly believe that knowledge is power and opening the minds of these youths through various activities out of the norm will hopefully spark a career interest in the future that will lead to success.”
This summer, the OSC hosted the world’s largest celebration of video games. Game On 2.0 features game design, development, and production including multiplayer games, handheld devices, original concept and character art and the most influential arcade machines.
The exhibition concludes on September 2.
Visitors will experience more than six decades of video game entertainment and technology, ranging from the very first commercial coin-operated game to the latest in virtual reality and 3D gaming.
“Most kids play games on their computers and phones,” said Nembhard. “My hope is what they will see at this exhibit today will inspire them to become engineers and developers. I want our young people to know that while it’s cool for them to play these games, it’s even better if they can see themselves as the ones applying their knowledge and technical skills to make the games.”
Nembhard lived in Belize and Mexico for a decade with her Vincentian parents prior to their relocation to Winnipeg and then the Greater Toronto Area.
“The first thing they told me when we arrived in Canada is that I should take advantage of all the opportunities in this new country, including learning French,” said Nembhard, who spent the first two months of her life in St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
She graduated from Lorne Park Secondary School, which has an extended French program and York University with a French degree.
The majority of students she tutors are enrolled in French Immersion programs.
“Most parents cannot speak the language so they are unable to help their kids at home,” added Nembhard, who is also fluent in Spanish. “This is an opportunity for me to assist them. I really believe that children are our future and we need to invest some of our time in them.”
Nembhard, who holds a full-time job with Boston Scientific in Mississauga, spends a few hours twice weekly with the students at her home or at a nearby Brampton library.
“I enjoy working with her because she makes learning fun,” said Earnscliffe Senior Public School Grade Seven student, Ashantae Grant, whose sisters, Ashira and Tisha, are also tutored by Nembhard.
For Deneka Samuel and Alex McDonald, this was their first OSC visit.
“I am just looking forward to having a great time and learning a lot,” said McDonald, who attends Castlemore Public School. “I am so happy to have this opportunity.”
The other student participants were sisters Jada and Alysse Crowell and Joel Stewart.