Why can’t programs like YouthReach be in every neighbourhood in Toronto?

Photo of Mario Honoré

Mario (left) and his friend Jamon, both participants in the YouthReach program offered by JVS, a United Way member agency.

Before I found out about JVS I just used to hang on the street with my friends. I dropped out of school because I didn’t see the point. I wasn’t doing well anyhow. I figured I’d just get a job and then I’d have cash to do what I wanted. But I couldn’t get a job because no one would hire me. I didn’t know what to do next. I live at Gabian Way in Weston-Mt. Dennis and there’s really not much to do. There were guys in my neighbourhood in a gang and I was thinking about joining. They had money and I didn’t see anyone else around me making much. I started down a bad road and ended up caught by the police.

One day I saw a poster for a JVS program (YouthReach) in my apartment building. It said that if you were a kid in conflict with the law, they could help you find a job. At first, I didn’t want to go. But my friend Jamon and I decided to check it out. It wasn’t bad. Turns out that counsellors from JVS were coming to my building twice a week to talk to kids like me. After me and Jamon started going to JVS, more of our friends started coming too. It’s cool because you get surrounded by people with the same interests and energy. We don’t want to go home at the end of the night when it’s over.

There was a counsellor there who talked to me about what I liked to do and what I thought I was good at. He talked my language, you know? Knew where I was at. No adult had really talked to me like that before. He helped me put my resume together, taught me interview skills and how to communicate better. Now I have a part-time job at a restaurant in my neighbourhood. He got me back into school too and I never would have done that without him. I’m going to graduate from George Harvey in January. He even helped me get my driver’s license. I’m really on a good path now. I still see the counsellor every week at the JVS program and he’s always interested in how I’m doing. That’s cool.

For a better city, I think we need to have more programs like this. Why can’t they be in all neighbourhoods? Programs like this that keep kids off the street. Then there is less chance they’ll get into trouble with the police or start hanging with gangs. That’s what I would be doing otherwise. Places with different programs like sports, art classes, graphic design, photography, even cooking, they let people shine and also help you decide what you want to be.

The biggest thing I learned at JVS is how to portray myself better. If you portray yourself as a person from the streets, that’s how people will see you. I am still debating what to do after I graduate, but I know I won’t be just hanging on the street. To make Toronto a better city, I wish more kids could have the same chance.

2 thoughts on “Why can’t programs like YouthReach be in every neighbourhood in Toronto?

  1. Mario, congratulations to you and your friends for persevering. As a youth counsellor and teacher, it is people like you who inspire me to do a better job, stay with it when it sometimes seems lost, and advocate for more programming to support youth. Although I don’t know you, it truly is people like yourself who I admire and am inspired by. Thank you.

  2. Mario’s story is an inspiring one and a testament of the great work that is being done in the community!
    Employers should be offering more opportunities for youth to gain work experience, to learn and to grow. Employers who invest in providing youth with jobs will help them gain the work experience they need to excel and contribute to our economy’s future.

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