BY EMILY SINGH
When we think of heroes, some of the things that immediately come to mind are capes and super powers. For many of the youth living in Scarborough, Kwesi Johnson has neither of those, but can be considered a hero nonetheless. Johnson has eighteen years of community service experience under his belt and has dedicated his heart to giving back to the community. As Johnson begins his journey towards becoming the next Toronto District School Board trustee in Ward 21, Scarborough- Rouge River, he is seeking the support of the community.
Soft spoken, yet determined, Johnson comes from humble beginnings. Although he was born in Guyana, he was raised in Jamaica and in 1995 immigrated to Canada and settled in the Malvern community of Scarborough.
“I started off at a young age, I got really involved with my church, The Anglican Church of the Nativity Scarborough. I was an alter server in church. I also coached basketball and peewee soccer in the community. I was connected to the Malvern Community Resource Centre so that’s where it all started,” says Johnson.
The Anglican Church of the Nativity, Scarborough played a significant role in Johnson’s life as it gave him a place to not only worship but also connect with like-minded individuals.
“The church is a unique place in and of itself, it is very popular with Caribbean nationals. It’s a very eclectic mix of people from the Caribbean and because of that I got tapped into all these various groups. One of the elders from the church brought me on board to do some work with the Black Community Police Consultative Committee,” says Johnson.
Although Johnson no longer resides in the Caribbean he is very much an active member of Caribbean based organizations here in Canada. Through his church he was connected with the president of the Guyanese Canadian Youth Alliance. This dynamic group runs a mentorship and remedial help program on Saturdays that is geared towards not only providing tutoring in mathematics and English, but also equipping young people with life skills. Johnson is one of the driving forces behind this initiative that provides children from as young as Kindergarten all the way up to grade twelve with the tools they need to succeed not only academically but also socially. It was through the Guyanese Canadian Youth Alliance that he became involved with the Alliance of Guyana Canada where he serves as the Vice President.
Growing up with both his mother and father, Johnson knew the importance of education and hard work.
“My mom has always been a work horse, that’s where I get my work ethics from. My dad has always been the person to instill school, school, and school. I remember when I was leaving high school, I really wanted to play basketball,” says Johnson.
Through his father’s encouragement and dedication to learning, Johnson comes with a strong academic background. Johnson graduated from Centennial College with a Child and Youth Care Diploma and then went on to attend Ryerson University where he earned his degree in the same field. Johnson’s passion for learning and growth pushed him to obtain his Masters degree from the University of Toronto.
Johnson is one of the only candidates that has dedicated their professional life to helping young people. Supporting marginalized young people is something that is close to his heart and something he has dedicated much of his efforts towards. He credits JVS Toronto as his first real professional position that allowed him to do jut that. JVS Toronto is a non-profit organization that helps people find employment. Johnson committed himself towards the Youth Reach program that works with connecting young people who have been criminalized in some way, shape or form with education, some form of training or employment.
At the age of twenty two, Johnson received the prestigious Lincoln M Alexander Award in for Leadership in Eliminating Racial Discrimination. Through community workshops he aimed at eliminating discrimination based on race, gender, ability and sexual orientation. Currently Johnson serves as the Chair of the award.
It is evident that Kwesi Johnson is a man of the community and a natural leader. He not only speaks about evoking change, he does it. Without a doubt, Johnson will able to step up to the plate and fulfill the necessary duties of a TDSB trustee.
On January 25, 2016 those living within the postal code boundaries of M1B, M1X, M1V and M1S can all vote for Kwesi Johnson as the next TDSB trustee. Advance polling will also be taking place on January 16, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on January 17, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.