Why role models for youth make a difference

Photo of Kadeem Robin

When I was a child, one of the many things I loved about Scarborough was the winter time. Rolling giant snowballs, sledding, and having snowball fights were some of the things I loved about winter. With all of that fun, there were some days where the snow was so deep that I had a hard time just walking from one place to another.

What I ended up learning was that the easiest way for me to travel through the deep snow was to follow in the footsteps of the bigger person, because they could create an easier path for me. Sometimes I would even find footsteps that someone had long left behind and travel in those. What I didn’t realize was that this simple scenario is an example of what it is to have a role model in life.

I’ve seen that having a role model gives youth someone accessible that they can talk to, listen to and learn from, and an artistic outlet such as music or poetry lets youth know that they make an impact and that their voices have the power to make change. Sometimes that role model can be someone just to chill out with on a positive vibe, or the artistic pursuit can just be a means to vent, but having those resources in place makes a world of difference.

Joining the RISE (Respect In Schools Everywhere) program offered by East Metro Youth Services gave me a place where I could go to talk, chill or work. Writing and performing poetry helped me get things out of my system as well as make an impact on people. Running anti-violence workshops made me become a role model in my school and gave me the responsibility to act as one. My vision is to become a high school English teacher, which combines my passion for writing and desire to see youth succeed.

Machiavelli made a case for the ends justifying the means in all things, but when it comes down to youth it’s not just about what you do, but also how you do it. I believe that if you do the best you can, with what you have, for who you can, change will be made. That’s why I imagine a city where every young person can have a positive role model to help them realize their dreams. The role model I speak of is not just a famous politician, freedom fighter, humanitarian or philanthropist. I imagine a city where there is a local, accessible role model for every single youth.

Do you have a role model who was instrumental in your life? Leave a comment about who they were and why they had such a big impact on you. You can also hear more of Kadeem’s story in this short video:

6 thoughts on “Why role models for youth make a difference

  1. Amazing post Kadeem. I second everything you said. Coming up I didn’t have too many role models and not a lot of family either. The people around were often too busy to really stop and listen. So now I make it part of my life’s work to try to be that everyday person you refer to who can stop and listen and have real conversations with young people whose opinions and voices truly do matter. From one writer to another, keep up the amazing work!

  2. A youth that has no positive role model in their life is at much greater risk to feel and believe that taking the easy road is always the best route and if it is too hard quit.

    • Indeed. This also leads to the point of having positive life affirming role models who do not glorify the ‘easy road’. Too many young minds are polluted by persuasive negative role models. I think we can help our youth to be healthy by being positive role models, this costs us nothing! Help those around you reduce stress in their lives, smile more, spend time with those who matter to you etc.

  3. I agree with Sandra. If all you see yourself surrounded with is negative, that’s what you walk away with. Do you set your own course? Make your own path? Absolutely, but those influencers have a significant impact. My mother always used to say my sisters and I were lucky because we were surrounded by a culture of success and so all we could imagine for ourselves was a life of success, however we chose to define that. I have seen what happens when all that surrounds you is negative, you can’t see a path other than the one charted by others. It may not be where you want to go but how do you chart a new path? Where do you start? As Kadeem has said in his blog, the easiest way is to follow in the footsteps of others.

  4. Role models make a difference. Period. If you don’t see yourself reflected in the community or even in the media then you have nothing to aspire to. My role models were ‘activists’ or change agents not to mention the values I absorbed in my own family. Working to the best of your ability, recognizing that it was not about improving things for myself alone but also for others…and most of all to keep trying, even when you have dark days. I the words of Jack Layton – ‘You can wait forever for perfect conditions, or do the best with what you have.’ Don’t wait; act!

  5. The individual who had a huge impact on me growing up was once my soccer coach – she also happened to be a superstar player – she was always smiling and knew how to get the most out of us – she was named all-Canadian at the university level, played principal violin in the NS Youth Orchestra and was named to the Dean’s list every year. Her family had moved to NS from Iceland when she was in high school.

    Gunn Baldursson was a third-year pre-med student at Acadia when she was killed in a tragic auto accident. A distinguished scholar as well as an outstanding athlete, I am so lucky and blessed to have had her as a shining role model in my life.

Comments are closed.