The people of St. Alban’s: Meet Alessia!

Get to know one of our STARS After School program staff members, Alessia Lalli.

How long have you been at St. Alban’s? 
I’ve been at St. Alban’s for 3 years! I started off as a placement student for my third year of university where I participated in the STARS Program and the youth program Sistahood. Once I completed my placement, I was hired to work at the satellite site, Regal Road. Since then, I have moved back to the main site where I have worked with Group 5/6 and Group 3 as well as worked summer camp 2016 and 2018.

What age group do you currently work with?
Grade 4! (9-10 year olds)

What is your favorite thing about working with St. Albans?
My favourite thing about working with St. Alban’s is the family atmosphere. Working with the same staff and kids every day makes it very easy for you all to get to know each other and bond quickly. Plus, the kids are super fun, energetic, and unpredictable and the staff are super friendly and always there for you.

Do you have any secret talents?
I can binge watch a TV series embarrassingly fast.

If you had a super power, what would it be and why?
Teleportation! You no longer have to worry about traffic or commuting.

If you could spend one day in someone else’s shoes, who would it be and why?
If I could spend one day in someone else’s shoes, it would be Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day because I have always wanted to be in a band and tour.

If you could describe yourself in 3 words what would they be?
Caring, spontaneous, optimistic

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher because I enjoyed helping my younger brother and sister with their homework (and yet, I never wanted to do my own).

Are you an Early Bird or Late Owl?
I’m 100% a late owl

The people of St. Alban’s: Meet Annika

Annika Forman recently won second place in our Song Writing Competition.  She performed her winning track, “Brave New World“, at St. Alban’s Street Jam 2.0. 

How did you find out about the Inc Sound Studio program and St. Alban’s? What were your impressions when you first got here?
I went to St. Alban’s many times throughout my childhood. I went to daycare, summer camp, swimming, skateboarding amongst other things and have always loved the community that St. Alban’s fosters.
I found out about the Inc Sound Studio program because Jo’el Douglas guest lectured in my Equity Studies course at University of Toronto where he talked about the history of hip-hop and rap music. After the lecture I went up to him, thanked him, and said I write rap music and sent him a link of my track, “Brave New World“. Once he had had a listen he told me more about the program and that’s how I came to know of it. My impression of Inc Sound Studio program was a really positive one. I really liked the artists in the program, the staff, and the space itself.

What sparked your interest in music? How did you get started writing your own material?
My interest in music started from a very young age. I was always singing growing up in my house. My mom is a great singer and would always sing lullabies to me and my brother. Growing up there was always a lot of music in the house. As well, being Jewish, we would sing on Shabbat every Friday night and at synagogue as music is a big part of the culture. When I was about six I started taking Suzuki violin lessons and did that until I was twelve. From there I slowly became less interested in the violin and picked up the guitar – which I continue to play to this day. I started writing my own material when I was about 16. My guitar teacher at the time told me about a woman named Robyn Dell’Unto who had this company called “A Song of my Own” that helped artists write and record original songs. I got into contact with her and we wrote a song together. She then applied for a FACTOR (Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings) grant on my behalf and upon receiving it I was able to pay for a producer to help me record my first single “Brave New World“.

Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from the world around me. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true. I am very politically and socially aware and try to be involved in social justice initiatives as much as I can. I also want to make sure that my music is authentic and that I’m actually saying what I feel and am not trying to fit into a mold of party anthems and all the other music one often hears on the radio. “Brave New World” came about from deciding to write a song about something I cared about and had meaning to me. The inspiration for the song was to use a predominantly male musical platform – rap music – and all the historically derogatory ways in which it puts down women through its lyric and I was going to flip it on its head. I was going to use that same kind of medium but use it as a female empowerment song as oppose to how it has often historically degraded women.

What would you tell a young child who is interested in making their own music? What advice would you give them?
I would tell them they should go for it! I’m trying to think of the things that held me back as a kid. One of the things was the feeling that music will not get me anywhere – which I still feel! – but I try to ignore that feeling as much as possible and follow my passion. I also found and find that it’s hard for me to find inspiration. What I would say is the times where you struggle in your life is often the most inspiring times and you can use those times as fuel to write a good song. So the times when you feel like you’re at your lowest is actually the best place to be in to write a song and be inspired. So what I would tell a young person is – find that inspiration and then don’t be afraid to put out stuff that’s not already out there! Something I’m trying to remember to do myself is not to put out stuff just because it’s going to make you look good or it’s going to make you sound good. Put out stuff that’s authentic and real and that you would be okay with your children or future children hearing, something that you would be proud of and stand behind and something you feel strongly about. Don’t just put it out because it makes you sound cool or you think people will like it, put it out because there is truth in what you’re saying and you feel like people should hear it.

Besides music, what are your interests and what do you like to do in your spare time?
Besides music, I’m a huge sports fan. I play soccer and have been playing soccer since I was in elementary school. I love just being physically active in any way that I can. I’m also in school full-time studying sociology – which takes up a lot of my time but outside of school and sports I like to listen to music and hang out with friends.

The People of St. Alban’s: Meet Alana

Meet Alana, a youth arts member at our main clubhouse. Alana joined our club about two years ago and is an active participant in our Inc Sound Studio program.

What is the best part of being a member here at St. Alban’s?

I love that there’s a well structured team behind all the programming. I appreciate the fact that there’s always someone with an answer. St. Alban’s has a great way of providing a safe space to create and at the same time providing platforms to present your creativity.

How long have you been singing and recording your music?

I’ve literally been singing all my life, but as for recording, I started at the age of 14.

Tell us a bit about yourself (including other hobbies/interests outside of music)…

I’m outdoorsy, I enjoy seclusion just as much as good company, and I like to colour.

What inspires your music?

I get inspired when I can imagine a situation and can’t reference a song that is already out there. I enjoy creating what I’m longing to hear right then in that moment.

How has St. Alban’s helped you in achieving your musical goals?

I’d say the greatest help has been the consistency. Outside of St. Alban’s I’ve had to depend on the availability of others, but here there’s a schedule and that kind of consistency has definitely supported my flow of creativity.

What are your hopes and goals for the future?

God-willing I’ll not only successfully reach my generation with my music, but my life itself will be impactful. I want to be eye-opening to previous generations, to lead my generation, and to inspire the next generation. Not just through music alone but in various industries and aspects of life.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I just released my first song “Contemplations” which was recorded at St. Alban’s.

Listen to Alana’s song, “Contemplations”, here. 

Power of the Purse – Thank you!

Thank you so much to everyone who supported our Power of the Purse fundraiser which took place at 99 Sudbury on Tuesday May 15th. The event featured a (not so) silent auction including designer handbags, clothing, sports memorabilia and gift certificates.  The gourmet catering was delicious and everyone enjoyed some refreshments, learning about the arts programs at St. Alban’s and the (mostly) friendly competition at the auction table.

Highlights from the evening included hearing from speakers Serena Nudel, former St. Alban’s Arts Coordinator, and Kayla Wallace, who will be designing the new arts and crafts room. We also enjoyed watching the live painting by artist Tanisha Clarke.

Including the Power of the Purse event, we have raised $13,600 so far!  We have just over $35,000 to go to meet our goal for renovating our arts and crafts room into a space that is accessible for all age groups and provides a space for creativity and imagination.  Interested in helping us reach our goal? Donate online today! 

Special thanks to our many sponsors:

Fiesta Farms
Alex and Jennifer Beauregard
HKO Design
TD Bank- Bathurst and Bloor
Bateman’s Bikes
Snapdragon Designs– Pam Willcocks
Gap- Old Navy- and Banana Republic
Maria Almedia
Lindt Chocolates
Satisfaction Spa
Phipps Bakery
Happy Bakery
Uniqueka Wilson
Mayday Malone’s
Denise Lewis
Kat Bonnell
Donna Taniguchi
Natalia LaFortune
Bees Are Life

The People of St. Alban’s: Meet Charlotte!

Charlotte Winter is an 11-year-old in grade six at McMurrich Jr. Public School, and she has been enrolled in our STARS after school program for the last two years. At such a young age, Miss Winter has managed to write a number of short stories, spoken word poems and she aspires to be a pediatrician someday “in a clinic so [she] doesn’t have to work crazy hours”!

We sat down with Charlotte to learn more about her experience as a tween, big sister, and young writer.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done recently?
I used to live really close to school. But I just moved in with my step dad, and he lives in Forest Hill. I have the whole 3rd floor to myself. And there’s this giant dresser in my room that we can’t get out, because there used to be an elevator but now there isn’t one!

Can you tell us what your coolest accomplishments have been?
I’ve learned to play two instruments. The violin, which I play at school, and the piano that I play at home. I like the piano better. Also, I’ve written a number of short stories. One about an insane asylum, another about a girl named Doll. Her mom dies from alcoholism, and she goes home for the funeral but everything is different. It’s called “Home Again”. Usually you write the beginnings of a lot of stories but never finish them.

How did you start writing?
It came naturally. My dad writes poetry. My siblings are into DJing and one is into photography.

Photo Credit: Charlotte Winter, Age 11.

What do you enjoy most about your writing?
It’s an escape from reality. You are no longer in reality, you are in your own reality. And everyone can write but not everyone can write well.

Have you gotten any recognition or awards for your writing?
No, but my writer friends say I’m good!

What is your 15 year plan?
I want to go to U of T medical school to become a pediatrician… and continue writing on the side as my main hobby. My step dad is a doctor and he says you’ll always come out of med school with a different specialty so who knows!

Do you know where you want to live? Will you stay here?
I love Toronto it’s my favorite place in the world. I want to work for a while, retire and then move somewhere warm! After I retire I want to be peaceful with the world. Live in a hut and have a pet zebra. And name it Stripes because I’m very original.

What do you find most challenging with being 11?
I’m between being a child and being a teenager. Being a teenager comes with responsibilities but being a child has privileges and no responsibilities. Which also means I can go one of two ways – where my younger siblings look up to me, and I’m babied by my older siblings –  and – I feel most comfortable being a child. 

What do you find rewarding at your age?
I don’t know… life, life is rewarding.

Do you like being a big sister?
Yes. My brother is my favorite person in the whole world! But we love each other in very different ways.  I’m aware of the different roles we play in our relationship.

What are your thoughts on social media?
I have Snapchat and Instagram. I mostly use Instagram for my photography. 

Charlotte’s self-awareness and maturity led us to write this piece on her, but her spirit and will to remain young is what captivated us the most. She described herself as goofy! Which is such an admirable quality to have, because most 11-year-olds are too concerned with acting like mini adults to express their childlike ways. If Charlotte could have one wish it would be that she could eat ice cream and not get fat, because it tastes good but has no nutritional value and she’d prefer to stay healthy! We’re on the same page, Charlotte, we’d love that magical ice cream too!

When we asked Charlotte for any advice she’d like to give anyone, she said

“Adulthood is a trap. Stay a kid for as long as possible. Stay a kid for as long as possible. Make it last.”

Charlotte graciously shared one of her spoken word/poetry pieces about her younger brother.


The People of St. Alban’s: Davida and the kids at Humber

by Davida Fullerton
Placement student and former Focus on Youth Employee 
Studying at Humber College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning
Social Service Worker Diploma Program
Davida is completing a 9 week student placement at our Humber Blvd location

I eagerly wait for the children to arrive at 121 Humber Boulevard. As the children arrive I hear the hall fill with the sounds of laughter and excitement. Their enthusiasm is amazing and I can see they are ready to have fun. The door creaks open and I see different sets eyes peaking in and saying “Hello.”  I laugh and tell them to come inside. The door opens and they move to sit inside to talk and play while I do attendance. When all the kids finally arrive I begin to interview each one, even if only for a few minutes. Here are the questions and their answers.

What do you look forward to most when coming to the Boys and Girls Club?

– Playing
– Having fun
– Seeing my friends
– Summer camp!

From a scale of 1-10 how great is the after school program?
– 7
– 8
– 10
– “11..someone broke the scale!” – says Jeremih

Who’s your favourite staff and why?

– Inca because she taught me how to make gimp – says Shadae 
– Davida because she’s fun and nice – says Jeremih
– Anna from summer because she was funny and nice – says Luckia
– Daliah because she’s funny – says Monique 

What’s something you learned from being at the Club?

– Treat others the way you want to be treated – says Iheem 
– No bullying
– How to swim – says Jeremih
– How to make gimp – says Shadae

Even though some of these kids are still working on reading and writing, they have a lot to say and know more than we think! As they grow up, the people around them need to continue to be positive role models and examples. The after school program gives them a space to be free, hang with friends, complete their homework and stay out of trouble. When they are old enough, they can join the youth program where there are a variety of amazing programs just for them. Working with kids can be challenging at times but it’s definitely worthwhile. Children are the future and soon they will run the world. It is our duty to provide them with the tools to not only grow in the world but thrive and I’m happy to say I’m a part of something that does just that.

The people of St. Alban’s: Meet Yash

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.

What are some differences you’ve seen between working children vs. working with youth?

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.

For more information on Impact Skateboard Club contact Yash at and follow Impact on social media:


The people of St. Alban’s: Which preschool staff said it?

Meet some of the preschool staff! Karen, Debbie, Angela, Kimberly, Foss, Susana, Basra, and Bankeni
Who do you think said it……?  Make your guess in the comments section! 

How long have you been working at St. Alban’s?

Staff #1: 15 yrs
Staff #2: on and off for 20 + years
Staff #3: 8 – 9 months
Staff #4: 10 yrs
Staff #5: I have been working at St. Albans for 10 years. 
Staff #6: Started working at March 2011 almost 8 years ago
Staff #7: 6 yrs
Staff #8: 16 yrs

What age group do you currently work with?

Staff #1: Preschool age
Staff #2: Toddlers
Staff #3: Preschoolers
Staff #4: Preschool
Staff #5: I work in the Toddler room. 
Staff #6: Junior preschool                                                        
Staff #7: Toddler
Staff #8: birth to 99 yrs!

What is your favorite thing about working with St. Albans? 

Staff #1: Getting to know all the children and families spending time with the children

Staff #2: I immensely enjoy working with the children. I feel like I get rewarded in small little ways that make me feel “big”.

Staff #3: Children and families

Staff #4: I got to know and love my children and their parents

Staff #5: I enjoy working in  St. Albans Toddler room because I get to watch the developmental changes that occur in my room from when a child first enters the room to when they leave.  I also enjoy their excitement and joy including the things they say and do I find amazing!  Most importantly I love their hugs and how they see me as a super star!  Of course I also enjoy the relationships that are created with the parents along with working with wonderful team members and a caring, hard working boss!

Staff #6: Favorite thing about working at St. Albans is the feeling of sense of community and belonging          

Staff #7: I enjoy being around the friendly families and parents in the centre. I love to work with the parents as a team.

Staff #8: I love working with all of the families at St. Alban’s, providing support and being the “go to” place for everything!

What do you like to do in your down time? 

Staff #1: Lol rest and spend time with my twin nieces and drive my teenager nuts
Staff #2: ‘Jammies and a good book
Staff #3: I like to cook, clean and read and listen to music
Staff #4: Read
Staff #5: During my down time I like to read books such as, “Anne of Green Gables,” “Pride and Prejudice.”  Also I watch old movies such as, “Goonies.”  I love spending time with my family and my 2 best friends.  I really enjoy cooking shows and I could watch Martha Stewart all day!
Staff #6: My down time I like to spend it with my family and friends watching movies and going out to restaurants.                                                                
Staff #7: I would like to have down time so I can just relax
Staff #8: Relax

Do you have any secret talents? 

Staff #1: Those are secret I can’t reveal those
Staff #2: I am double jointed
Staff #3: I like to sing
Staff #5: I don’t think I have any secret talents other than that I can knit a scarf, and I used to play the piano and the flute.
Staff #6: I’m a really good storyteller and I can make paper boats, airplanes
Staff #7: Sewing
Staff #8: Writing, story telling and making up songs!!!

If you had a super power, what would it be and why? 

Staff #1: if I had a superpower hmm I’d want two one to fly (so I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic) & be able to turn invisible because who wouldn’t want that power
Staff #2: I would want to read minds
Staff #3: I would be the spreader of peace, togetherness and unity
Staff #4: Superhuman endurance which would allow me to exert myself during activities without getting tired. With this power, you could run marathons, clean the house, and study for long periods of time with ease and sleep
Staff #5: If I had a secret power it would be to go back in time and be able to fix a bad situation/choice before it happens.
Staff #6: If I had superpowers it would be the ability to pause all the happy moments in life and enjoy it a little longer.                                                                
Staff #7: I would love to be able to make everyone in the world work as a team. To be able to make the world have love, peace, no war.
Staff #8: Invisibility

If you could choose an imaginary friend, who would you choose and why? 
Staff #1: Casper the Friendly ghost – because he was my favorite childhood character growing up.
Staff #2: Wonder Woman because I’ve always like her since I was a child – a strong, powerful woman!
Staff #3: The invisible man so I can observe and see everything in my surroundings.
Staff #4: Jodi Ellen Malpas. I love her books. I will like to be friends with her so she can tell me where she get these amazing story ideas. I will like to know her main character in these books. How all these character where create
Staff #5: My imaginary friend would be a woman covered in leaves and flowers and she would take barren places on earth and make them green so that the people living there can survive and be happy.
Staff #6: I’m already my own imaginary friend that’s hard to beat!!!                                                                          
Staff #7: I can not have an imaginary friend.

If you woke up tomorrow as an animal, what animal would you choose to be and why?
Staff #1: would choose to be a sloth because I’m always on the go and if I was a sloth I would have to slow down and enjoy lots of naps
Staff #2: A dove because it is so peaceful.
Staff #3: An eagle so I can see things before it happens and resond.
Staff #4: A dragon because I think they are unique creature(also game of thrones)
Also like the song and the book of puff the magic dragon. So l love dragons.
Staff #5: If I woke up tomorrow and could chose an animal I would be an elephant.  First elephants are strong and they protect one another especially their young!  Also an elephant never forgets and I sometime forget things!
Staff #6: The animal I would pick is elephant very nurturing, emotional, confident, compassionate, social and great leadership skills just like me 😃
Staff #7: I can’t be an animal.

Do you think you know the preschool staff?  Guess which staff is which in the comments section! We’ll let you know if you are correct! 

Spirit of Expression: One, Two, Step

by Angelo Castillo
Children and Youth Program Coordinator, 
Boys and Girls Clubs of Weston-Mount Dennis

FIVE…SIX… FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT! Those are the lovely sounds you hear when you pass by the Youth room at 121 Humber Blvd on a Thursday evening. For the past couple of months, the Humber Youth have been practicing their dance routine for leisure, school and for their upcoming performance at The Spirit of Expression on Saturday February 3rd. 

The Spirit of Expression is an annual showcase where members from Boys and Girls Clubs across Toronto share their artistic talents. There are singers, dancers, visual artists, MC’s and DJ’s – and it’s a great time to meet people from other Boys and Girls Clubs in the city. This year’s theme is “Celebrating the Decades.”

Last year, the Humber Youth known as Young Girls With Ambition performed at The Spirit of Expression and this year they’re back with a new look and a new name. Damali Clarke, Shanniah Decaul, and LaShea Jackson return with Daquane Hazel as a new addition to the group. BEAST MODE, is their new dance crew name – reminiscent of the saying that gym goers like to use when they’re lifting weights.

“We’re definitely excited! Last year was such an amazing experience; even though we were nervous, the energy of the crowd and performing for one was incredible! That’s why we’re called BEAST MODE. We’re amped up!” said Shanniah.

The youth were definitely hesitant when they found out that they would be dancing to 60s music. “When Dominique and Angelo told us that we would be dancing to 60s music this year we were a little disappointed; not interested almost. Dancing and music allows us to express ourselves and being told what songs we should be dancing to was a turn-off, but they convinced us,” LaShea Jackson replied.

Convincing the youth was definitely not an easy task. But having that discussion regarding the history of dance and music; and how it influenced most, if not all the musicians today was great to have. “Motown, most especially, the Jackson 5 are my favourite from that era for sure! We watched some of their performances online and they were amazing,” said Damali Clarke. “We worked with Angelo and thought about what songs we liked. He showed us different songs by different artists and eventually we came up with a great idea,” said LaShea.

Beast Mode will be performing at The Spirit of Expression on February 3, 2018 at Bloor Collegiate. Watch them perform and witness their great idea!