Like most newcomers, Darryl Sampson didn’t easily integrate into his new home.
“The transition was very difficult,” recalled Sampson who came to Canada from Trinidad & Tobago at age eight. “I was rebellious, I gave a lot of trouble and I just didn’t fit in well in school.”
Had it not being for a guidance counselor, who knows what would have happened to him.
“The counselor promised that if I attended 10 straight classes, I would be rewarded with a gift,” he said. “I took up the challenge and I received what I was promised. That singular act opened my eyes to the fact that there are people who really cared about me and wanted to see that I did well. That gift made me listen to other people who were trying to help me succeed in life.”
Sampson graduated from York University and went on to have a successful 11-year career in the Canadian Football League (CFL) with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger Cats. The defensive back won two Grey Cups with the Bombers in 1988 and 1990 and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2004.
The 16th overall pick in the 1986 CFL draft shared some of his experiences to inspire young people enrolled in the Regent Park-based Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Club Rogers Raising the Grade program that helps students in challenged communities to explore, set and achieve their academic and career goals. The program offers academic support, mentors and opportunities to use technology and quality online resources in Rogers Tech Centres set up in various Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.
“A lot of influential people helped shape my life, including my football coach in Winnipeg who criticized me regularly during my first year,” Sampson, a former York University special teams coach, said. “Thinking that he hated me, I became frustrated and approached him to let him know how I felt. He said he did so to make me better because, unlike some of the other players on the team, I listened and I followed instructions. Because I did those things, he assured me I was going to play a long time in the league which I did.”
A total of 10 high school students are enrolled in the twice-weekly multi-faceted education program that runs through the school term.
With the assistance of mentors, they will do homework during the first hour of each day’s program while the second hour is set aside for project-based activities. The club has partnered with organizations and individuals to run workshops that help the youth secure critical professional and life skills.
“This program seeks to do one thing really well and that’s to get young people excited about the future,” said Boys & Girls Club of Canada senior manager of youth educational programs, Neil Price.
Speaking to the Grade Eight and Nine students directly, the George Brown College professor challenged them to seize the opportunity.
“We want you to see the tech centre as your own and we want you to be comfortable going there and to be excited to interact with your peers and adult mentors,” said Price. “The program is going to be only as good as you want it to be, if you are open-minded and interested in having fun and discovering who you are as individuals. Building on your future, you will find it to be very valuable and this environment a good place to be.”
Each participant is matched with a volunteer mentor who will work with them on a weekly basis on personal development plans, e-portfolios and specific issues and barriers they face to help them achieve their goals.
Julia Farquhaison said she relishes motivating, encouraging and inspiring young people.
“That’s the reason why I decided to take up this role and help these youths,” she said.
Vaughan Road Academy student Shae Brown is looking forward to the experience.
“Working in a team environment with other young people like myself and having an adult guide us along the way with the technology and resources we have here is great,” he said.
The Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Club is one of 25 clubs in Canada with access to the tech centre that offers high-speed internet and advanced technology, including computers and other electronic resources to support learning.
BY RON FANFAIR