Leon Parkes had every reason to celebrate his first anniversary in Canada.
A day before the occasion, he graduated from the Family Life Skills Link Employment program that helps new immigrants and young unemployed Canadian youth obtain useful career information, develop marketable skills, find suitable jobs and remain employed.
Boasting an 80 per cent success rate, the initiative has assisted in turning around the lives of numerous young people, including Parkes.
Migrating from Jamaica to join his mother and younger sister, he was unsure what to expect.
“I knew the transition was not going to be easy and that I would have to work hard to make it here,” said Parkes. “The good thing is I came with an open mind and I was willing to do whatever was needed to be a productive citizen.”
Parkes was at home watching television and trying to devise a strategy to start the assimilation process in his new homeland when he was introduced to the federally-funded six-month program.
“In addition to making new friends and gaining self-confidence, I have learned how to set goals and I have acquired some skills that would enable me to operate successfully in a work environment,” he said.
An electrician inJamaica, Parkes – who has a part-time job at Home Depot – completes high school later this month.
A total of 24 young people graduated from the program. They included Peter Burthwright, who attendedPickeringHigh School.
“I was looking for a job when my grandmother suggested I enrol in this program to build my resume,” he said. “I am glad I did because this has been a fulfilling exercise. This program did a lot for me such as raising my self-esteem.”
Burthwright plans to become a sound engineer.
The other graduates are Cordell Clarke, Julian DeSilva, Divora Downey, Dennis Forde, Jahlanie Morrison, Nadia Peter, Mykal Ramcharitar, Matthew Vaters, Keilon Wallace-Forde, Dion Waterman, Jade Williams, Valentina Cisneros, Kempton Clarke, Philip Folks, Dwight Geary, Skye Heathwood, Javair Johnson, Dominique Naval, Shakail Robinson, Alexis Rouleau, Shanice Strachan and Shaquille Williams.
Patrick Wilson and Geraldine Wade-Brown are the program facilitators.
“You have made strong and courageous steps,”Wilsontold them. “When you came in, we challenged you. We are proud to see the growth that has taken place.”
Provincial Minister Tracy MacCharles, Pickering Mayor David Ryan and Member of Parliament Corneliu Chisu attended the celebration.
“You have battled legal issues, learning barriers, substance abuse problems and other challenges,” said Chisu. “It takes hard work, determination, strength of will and honesty to overcome obstacles and you should all be proud of yourselves. You have acquired valuable employment skills that have clearly helped you find jobs. This is an investment that the Family Life Centre has made in you.”
As part of the program, participants are matched with Durham-area employers.
Ryan said nearly 6,000 new jobs have been launched inPickeringin the last four years.
“I have attended 40 ribbon-cutting ceremonies so far this year,” he said. “We are doing everything to provide job opportunities for you.”
Bishop Joseph Fisher, the Word of Truth Christian Centre’s founder, was instrumental in the creation of the Family Life Community Resource Centre that established the Skills Link program eight years ago.