Life has been a constant struggle for Jamal Binwalee. Migrating with his family from Chicago at age 13, it took the youngster many years to come to grips with his mental illness.
“I was constantly depressed, I struggled a lot in school, my self-esteem was very low, I struggled with maintaining relationships,” said Binwalee. “I just didn’t understand what was wrong with me. The next thing I knew I was out living on the street selling and using drugs, drinking alcohol excessively and I was caught up in the criminal justice system.”
Kicked out of Dunbarton High School and his home, Binwalee said he considered suicide as a way out.
“One day, I told myself I was not going to let this illness get the better of me and I asked for help,” he said. “A multitude of people opened their arms and hearts and provided the support I needed.”
Now on medication, Binwalee completed high school and is enrolled in the free two-month Rise Youth Small Business Program, designed to help young entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable small businesses. Youth between the ages of 16 and 29 who self-identify as having a mental health or addiction challenge and would like to run their own business are eligible for the program.
Ryerson School of Management faculty, alumni and guest instructors deliver the workshops to participants, who also receive one-on-one team coaching from Rotman MBA alumni and from the small business/entrepreneurial community.
At the end of the program, the participants will create an action plan and become eligible for business financing from Rise.
“I want to start a community social enterprise,” said Binwalee, who has three young children. “I want to be a role model for my kids…In the next five years, I see myself being a more wise and understanding man filled with wisdom, patience and better leadership skills.”
Binwalee was one of four young people recognized with Imani Awards last Sunday in Scarborough. Hosted by the African Canadian Legal Clinic Youth Justice Education Program, the awards recognize the victories and accomplishments of Black youth.
The Youth Justice Education program is a three-year youth-led initiative for Black youth working to overcome challenges and remove themselves from the criminal justice system and the inherent risk factors.
Other youth award winners were Kipling Collegiate Institute student, Dereese Williams, who turned his life around with the support of the Success Beyond Limits Education program and his community; Michelle Green, who is enrolled in Humber College’s Community Justice Worker program and Christopher Reid, who is a passionate youth advocate.
An Elder Award was presented to community worker, Ken Jeffers and the Youth Challenge Fund was the recipient of a Community Organization Award.
The funds accrued from last Sunday’s event will be used to fund a group of Black youth who plan to tour Africa.