BY NADIA PERSAUD
Children are the future. We hear these words almost every day, but how many of us actually treat children as though they are the leaders of tomorrow?
As adults, it is easy to discourage children and young people; it is easy to extinguish their passionate flames and ideas with our words and actions, though it is not always intentional.
Children and young people look to their elders, parents and teachers to believe in them and to support them, but when these are absent, their potential becomes dormant and needs to be awakened.
Marcia Brown, an inspirational and dedicated woman, is an awakener of potential.
After realizing that there was an urgent need for a place where youth could feel safe, accepted and be supported in her community, Brown founded Trust 15, a youth community support organization, in 2011.
Trust 15 is a non-profit organization that provides youth (ages 7-18) in the Rexdale/North Etobicoke area with the social and educational tools they need to succeed, through mentoring and introducing them to positive role models.
The organization connects their youth with mentors, professionals, and community leaders to inspire them to believe in themselves, their talents and their futures.
Every week, Trust 15 runs after school drop-in programs, Ladies on the Rise, Girls on the Rise and Men of Distinction and Boys of Excellence where the youth talk over real life issues such as self-esteem, conflict-resolution, abuse, peer pressure and family life, and discuss possible solutions.
On August 11, 2016, Trust 15 held its Summer Program Showcase at the North Kipling Junior Middle School as a finale to an unforgettable summer.
Brown’s students paid tribute to her, and to the Trust 15 Summer Program in an array of creative expression.
A slideshow showcased the group’s memorable four-day trip to Ottawa, where they had a tea party with Sophie Grégoire- Trudeau, the Prime Minister’s wife, and visited Parliament Hill, museums and historical buildings.
The Trust 15 group spent their summer learning how to paint, bake, participated in their own mini-Carnival, experienced the Ford Fest Camp Day and even visited Doug Ford at his cottage, where they had the opportunity to take a ride on his jet ski!
If Brown’s students want to meet someone or experience something new, she does her best to make it happen, “People just seem to draw everything out of them (the students)…As long as we give them a voice, a proper voice, to be the leader that they need to be, they can conquer the world. I don’t want anyone shutting them down.”
Before the afternoon’s entertainment began, trustees, councillors and other notable community leaders who mentored the group in their area of expertise were given thank you gifts for sharing their knowledge and wisdom, including Kevin Frankish from Breakfast Television Toronto.
Frankish shared some advice for youth, “Kids are…kids and all they want to do, is they want to be heard and they want to be shown a direction…The most important thing is to get excited. Get excited about everything. Get excited about getting up in the morning, get excited about learning, get excited about your friends…Just be excited and don’t let anyone tell you to settle down…Enjoy, love, live –be passionate.”
The youth of Trust 15 certainly are passionate individuals, as they recited beautifully written and powerful poems about the empowerment they felt after being part of the program and about the ever-present violence in the city of Toronto.
The Men of Distinction and Boys of Excellence recited the inspirational poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. The Ladies on the Rise sang in their beautiful, melodious voices and performed an energetic dance, cartwheeling across the floor.
Ending off the afternoon’s events, Brown awarded her graduates of the Men of Distinction and Ladies on the Rise, who are moving into post-secondary this fall, with plaques, thanking them for their work as mentors in the program. The other members of the group received pins for their dedication. There were many tearful goodbyes for the graduates as Trust 15 helped them to find their self-confidence and to unleash the potential they were told they didn’t have.
Throughout the afternoon, it was clear that this group of students felt an immense amount of love and support for one another, affectionately referring to each other as brothers and sisters – family.
Vibrancy just emanated off of this group; they were confident, polite and eloquent.
These youth are resilient. They do not let their background, home life or circumstances dictate their future. They are true masters of their fates and this is what will lead them to become inspirational leaders.