Today we get a chance to get to know one of the newest and most ambitious youth staff members at St. Alban’s – Yash Preswalla. An outstanding member of our community and his own, Yash has gone above and beyond to break down barriers, create safe spaces and build self-esteem among the youth population across the GTA. His methods may seem unconventional to some, but even the biggest naysayers can’t argue with what he has been able to accomplish.
How long have you worked at St. Alban’s?
I have been at St. Alban’s for almost one year now.
Time flies! Tell us EXACTLY what you do here.
I started off working in the preschool department, which was the reason I came to St. Alban’s in the first place. After Karen gave me a tour of the building and a rundown of all the other programs offered here, I noticed the skateboarding program and naturally gravitated toward that. I now facilitate instructional skateboard programming for the kids in grades 1-6. With support from STARS staff members we are able to offer group lessons to start the day, and then break off into smaller groups and/or 1-on-1 lessons. In the evening we shift over to youth skateboarding for anyone aged 12+. There is not as much need for instructions with the teenagers, but I like to offer tips and advice when I see the youth trying out new tricks. I really just love to see the community members do well and succeed, which is why I always try to make myself available for support.
What is the BEST part about working at St. Alban’s?
I love seeing kids progress. When kids go from being intrigued about skateboarding, to gathering enough courage to come into the gym and join the program, to then eventually learn how to ride a skateboard – that’s what it’s all about. I really like that St. Alban’s is an inclusive community that allows everyone to feel welcome. I’ve noticed that kids don’t treat other kids with exceptionalities any differently. It’s really cool to see.
I find that the younger kids look up to the staff as role models, and because of that we are able to work on little things, unrelated to skateboarding, like manners. Reminding them to say please and thank you, holding the door for their friends, just being respectful, in general. Kids need boundaries and I find they are willing and able to follow instructions/directions. With the youth, the relationships go beyond just skateboarding. Myself, and the other staff members do a lot of mentoring to help these young people transition into adulthood. Building healthy adult relationships is huge for young people.
What does Yash do for fun, other than working at St. Albans?
I honestly don’t have very much down time these days because of everything I have going on. When I do find some free time I really enjoy reading. I just love learning. I also practice a few different martial arts, such as aikido, taekwondo and karate. They are great for learning discipline but I also really enjoy doing them. They’re great for physical activity and I have a lot of fun doing them.
Tell us a little bit about your new organization and what programs you offer.
Sure. I started a non-profit, inclusive skateboarding organization called Impact Skateboard Club. We focus primarily on personal development through skateboarding. There are 3 major components we focus on; Education, Accessibility and Social Justice. We want to show the differences between privileged vs. less privileged. We want to give a voice to the voiceless. We have held donation drives for school supplies and given the proceeds to a women’s shelter on Queen St E called Nellie’s. Every month we focus on donating to a different cause, whether it’s for youth mental health, adults with special needs, etc. It is really important for us to show the value of giving back to those in need, and to the community in general. We pride ourselves on being fully accessible, which is why we’re always working on finding funding, such as JumpStart grants, etc. If there are people who really want to be a part of Impact Skateboard Club, we want to be able to waive some fees, if not offer the program for free altogether.