Deputy Chief Peter Sloly and Superintendent Ron Taverner joined nearly 100 young people in the Etobicoke North community at a Christmas celebration on December 17 at North Kipling Junior Middle School.
Toronto District School Board educational assistant Marcia Brown started the Trust 15 organization that encompasses the Men of Distnction, Ladies on the Move and the Girls on the Rise programs.
“This, for me, is the most important project going on in this city,” said Sloly who, along with Taverner, is on the Trust 15 board. “It’s proof positive that, if we invest in our young people, we can make them successful beyond their own expectations and we can make this city safer.”
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.
“I live in this community and I realize there are a lot of issues and not enough positive programs to help young people,” said Brown, a 2011 recipient of the Ontario Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence. “I decided to go from door to door to convince parents to send their children to this enriching after-school program.”
Three area public schools – North Albion Collegiate Institute, North Kipling Junior Middle School and St. Andrew Catholic School – have embraced the programs. Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School will join next month.
“Trust 15 has offered young people without hope the opportunity to dream and think big,” said North Albion Collegiate Institute principal Naeem Siddiq. “I have seen, first-hand, the rise in the level of their confidence and self-esteem. Kids are coming to school on time and their deportment has improved.”
Grade 12 student Muhammad Hassan is one of the many students who have benefitted from the program.
“I used to skip classes and do things I should not be doing,” he admitted. “That’s no longer the case since I came to the Men of Distinction program. I am making full use of the mentors and my leadership skills have improved. I just feel so good about myself.”
Bibi Hakim’s confidence has soared to the point where she hosted the event.
“I really struggled with self-confidence before I got into the Ladies on the Move program,” she said. “Now, I feel comfortable speaking in front of an audience and I have set myself life goals instead of just living from day to day. I have a purpose.”
Kwaku Agyemang joined Men of Distinction three years ago.
“I have learned the true meaning of peer potential and how working together as a team can be impactful and lead to successful outcomes,” said the Grade 12 student, who aspires to be a business executive with a broadcast network.
Grade 11 student Arianne Sayedy joined the Ladies on the Move program a few months ago.
“While I am new, I am already seeing changes in the way I do things,” she said. “I am more open and communicating with people and I am seeking volunteer opportunities.”
Pablo Milandu was in a barbershop two years ago when he got a phone call from a friend that turned his life around.
Knowing that Milandu has an interest in music production, his buddy thought it would be beneficial if he attended a session later that day that Grammy award-winning musician and composer Ashley Ingram was doing with teenagers involved in the Men of Distinction program.
A graduate of North Albion Collegiate Institute, Milandu said the program put him on the right track.
“I am an introvert and I would stay at home in my ‘bat cave’ all day rather than go outside and socialize with people in a positive environment,” said Milandu, who is enrolled in Wilfrid Laurier University’s business administration program. “That has changed since I was introduced to Trust 15. I now find it easy to approach people and engage in meaningful conversations. This program has turned things around for me and put me on a path to success. My work ethic has improved tremendously and I am prepared for the real world.”
Milandu, who aspires to be a banker, was among Trust 15 graduates invited to share their experiences with program participants at the annual Christmas celebration.
“I highly doubt you will ever end up in another environment where the people you want to connect with come to you and want to help you even before they know who you are,” he said. “That’s the power of this program in a nutshell and you should make full use of it…This room is a gold mine, so you should start digging. Grab business cards and e-mails and tell everybody about your dreams. Make sure people remember who you are, follow through and do not leave empty-handed.”
23 Division Staff Sergeant Ron Boyce and Sergeant Bassey Osagie also joined in the celebration.
“Marcia is doing great work with young people in this neighbourhood and we are here to show our support,” said Boyce.