Be the Change: the First Hurdle is the Hardest

Sam, a high school athlete, faces discouraging barriers until one person, then another, then another, decides to make a difference....

Sam, a high school athlete, faces discouraging barriers until one person, then another, then another, decides to make a difference….Read about it in our story!

 

Before he crouches in the starting blocks, Sam can see the university track team coach, standing at the finish line, holding up a university team uniform. Between Sam and that uniform are several hurdles with the first in letters so large that they make the first hurdle taller than all the rest. He reads, “Fee to apply: $95.”

If Sam can’t raise $95, it doesn’t matter that he can easily clear the academic and Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) application hurdles.

“Sam” is not his real name, but his university application dilemma is a real life story currently unfolding in Etobicoke.

A year ago, Sam didn’t dream about track or about university. He had money from odd jobs for drug dealers and gang members. So, how did he change direction?

If you care about the answers, you can be part of the change.

The Youth Justice Initiative

Rexdale Community Legal Clinic’s new Youth Justice Initiative was the catalyst.

When Sam had trouble with the law, a duty counsel lawyer put him in touch with Camieka Woodhouse, our Youth Justice Initiative worker.

She discovered that he had the potential to continue onto university and that his athletic prowess would probably assure him of a scholarship. Suddenly, Sam could see horizons that had previously been completely blocked by the ugly brick buildings encircling his neighbourhood. Once he could “see” the university, he began to work and dream and train.

Sensing a change in him, Camieka asked some probing questions. She was familiar with the barrier posed by the Ontario Universities Application Centre process.

Moneyed families, preparing to fork out large amounts for their children to succeed, barely notice the registration fee.  On the other hand, young people without family supports or money are completely stymied. They’re only eligible for OSAP if they are accepted into university, and they cannot be accepted because they cannot afford to apply.

Because of this fairly modest barrier, budding opportunities die.

Where legal clinics can step in to help

Legal clinics are funded by Legal Aid Ontario to provide access to justice for low income residents in their communities.

Most clinic workers understand this can go beyond legal remedies and could include reducing poverty, increasing access to education and generally making a difference in any way that they can. And so, Camieka began searching for the non-legal remedy. Without it, she worried that Sam would return to his previous career options, mostly involving various forms of crime and ultimately, violence and incarceration.

Camieka believes that Sam has the ability to cross the other hurdles without her, but she was very concerned that he would turn to his former criminal associates to get the registration fee, and that this would amount to “falling off the wagon.”

Unknown to Sam, several conversations cascaded into a happy ending. A conversation at the clinic led to a request to a service club, and within 24 hours, the Knights of Columbus had come up with more than enough for Sam to launch his career plan.

Being the Change

At the clinic, we puzzle over how to create a pool of funds for cases like Sam’s and how to make guidance counsellors, youth counsellors and students aware of it.

Too many in our community face these hurdles:

  • growing up in poverty
  • bad role models for future paths
  • lack of opportunities for youth

Camieka sees her clients strolling around the starting line, studying the hurdles. On either side of the hurdles, there are “run off” lanes where the finish line is much closer. At the end of that line, a corrections officer is holding not a lycra tracksuit, but a cotton prison uniform.

Finding another path is about Being the Change: partnering and networking in our community and reducing poverty by addressing the causes.

Camieka is one of many people at our clinic and in our community who is part of the change. Now, so is Sam.

 

Footnote: Sam is a real person. For purposes of this article, Sam has been given a fictitious name.  Camieka Woodhouse is a real person, who has moved on to a different job, as real people do. Her work with young people at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic is being carried on by Tameka Francis.

 

Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic. 

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CANADIAN RED CROSS – WEEK OF YOUTH

Red Cross Week of YouthRed Cross Week of YouthRed Cross Week of Youth

DOWNLOAD REGISTRATION FORM

REXDALE COMMUNITY HUB LEADERSHIP CAMP

Leadership CampFind out more about Summer Camps for youth HERE.

YOUTH SUMMER CAMPS

Footsteps to Success

An EXCITING, unique camp that challenges campers through a variety of activities. This camp is a partnership program with Toronto Catholic School Board, MotionBall Sport and Urban Arts. Activities included leadership training, sport, swimming, arts and field trips.

Location: 176- Martine Grove Rd.
Days: Monday to Friday
Father Henry Carr Secodary School Time: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Start/End: July 2 to August 9, 2013
Duration: 6 weeks
Ages: 10-15
Cost: Free

http://www.tcdsb.org/FORSTUDENTS/FocusOnYouth/Pages/Footsteps-to-Success-summer-camp.aspx

Rexdale Hub Leadership Camp

This dynamic and interactive camp aims to inspire and expose youth to technology. This is a partnership project with IBM and the Rexdale Hub Community Partners. Activities include computer technology, social media, movie making, acrobatics, sports with profession athletes and field trips.

Location: 21 Parorama Ct.
Rexdale Community Hub
Duration: 4 days
Days: Monday to Thursday
Time: 9:00AM to 4:00 PM

Cost: Free

Session 1:
July 22, 2013 to July 25, 2013

Session 2:
August 19 to August 22th, 2013Ages: 13-16

(choice of 2 sessions for the summer)

Leaders of Tomorrow Camp

The leadership camp provides youth with a basic understanding of leadership in a recreational setting. Join use for an AWESOME summer experience discovering who you are and how to unleash your inner leader. We will explore some cool stuff, play fun games and sport, take on projects, learn about leadership, meet leaders from different walks of life, and enjoy weekly field trips.

Location: 2580 Kipling Ave.
North Albion Collegiate Institute
Duration: 6 weeks
Start/End: July 2 to August 16, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Ages: 13-17
Cost: Free

Young Entrepreneurs Summer Camp

Dreaming of being your own boss? We will help you explore the possibilities, meet young successful business owners, create a virtual or real business, venture out to see businesses in action, maximize your creative vision. Activities include media arts, games, field trips and traditional camp experiences.

Location: 21 Panorama Court

Rexdale Community Hub
Duration: 6 weeks
Start/End: July 8to August 15, 2013
Days: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
Time: 12:30 AM to 5:30 PM

Group 1
Ages: 13 – 17

Group 2
Ages 18-29

Dimensions of Diversity

This camp encourages young people to develop leadership skills and explore cultural diversity using media arts. Activities include conversations about diversity, weekly field trips, cross cultural food experience and sports activity.

Two Locations:

21 Panorama Court
MicroSkills ProTech Media Centre
Duration: 5 weeks
Days: Monday, Tuesday, Friday
Start/End: July 2 to August 2, 2013
Time: 12:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Ages: 13-17
235 Dixon Road, Unit 12
MicroSkills Youth Welcoming Centre
Duration: 5 weeks
Days: Monday, Tuesday, Friday
Start/End: July 2 to August 2, 2013
Time: 12:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Ages: 13-17

Cost: Free

http://www.microskills.ca/

Summer Nature Camp

The Science and Nature camp gives children the opportunity to learn and enjoy nature. Daily activities include: nature walks, ecology, bird watching, forest exploration, organic vegetable garden, insect observation, swimming and canoeing.

Location: 205 Humber College Blvd.
Humber College Arboretum
Start/End: Over the summer
Duration: 1-2 weeks
Days: Monday to Friday
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Ages: 5-13
(Different camp sessions for the summer)

Cost: Free for low income house holds

http://humberarboretum.on.ca/summercamp

The Leaders In Training Program

Offers youth the opportunity to gain valuable volunteer experience at nature camp and prepares youth for future leadership positions/ Acitivites include, interpersonal skills, communication skills, teamwork skills and gain volunteer hours!

Location: 205 Humber College Blvd. Humber College Arboretum

Duration: 4 weeks
(Two camp sessions for the summer)
Start/End: July 2 to August 30, 2013
Cost: Free
Days: Monday to Friday
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Ages: 14-15

http://humberarboretum.on.ca/LITs