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

Meet Marta, a Raise the Grade mentor volunteer! Marta has been a mentor for the Raise the Grade program for almost two years. She started out as an amazing placement student working with our youth in programs such as Raise the Grade, Youth Compass, Sole Sisters and is overall a great spirit in our community!

When did you join Raise the Grade and what made you choose to be a volunteer mentor?
I joined officially in January 2018 and had the pleasure of doing my placement at St. Alban’s prior and got to see how the program worked. I like the idea that it is a one-on-one mentorship experience with the youth. You are able to witness their growth and accomplishments throughout the year and it is a nice feeling know that you were able to mentor them during it all.

What is your favourite thing about the Raise the Grade program?
Being able to see the growth of the youth by the end of the school year and how happy they are with their accomplishments!

How do you like to relax especially when dealing with stress?
Throwing on a pair of running shoes, putting on a great 90’s playlist and taking a run around the city!

Sweet or Savoury? Favourite Snack?
100% Savoury! Chips are my weakness!

Dream travel destination?
Definitely Thailand. I love having the opportunity to experience different cultures and the country looks beautiful. I also LOVE Thai cuisine.

If you could give one piece of advice to your past self, what would it be?
Never give up on what makes you happy. With hard work and determination, you can achieve anything…even if it takes a couple of tries and failures to get there!


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

Meet Zachary, a long-time youth member at our main clubhouse.  Zachary has been a youth member since 2011 and is an active participant in our Raise the Grade program for five years. He also works part-time with our STARS after-school program and summer camp

What made you join the Raise the Grade program?

I joined the Raise the Grade program because I needed extra help and support with my academics.  I like the fact that I can work 1-on-1 with a mentor/tutor who is matched and catered to my academic needs and to also have someone I can trust and talk to on a regular basis.

Tell us about your biggest academic challenge and how did you overcome it?

My biggest academic challenge would have to be during my senior year in high school.  I found out that I did not get accepted to my top school and program at Ryerson University. I had several other acceptances and almost went to another school. However after getting advice from my friends, family, and my mentor, I made the tough decision to do an extra year of high school and applied again. I ended up graduating my 5th year of high-school with honours and got accepted into the Sport Media program at Ryerson University! Moral of the story: Do not rush the process!

What is the best part about being a Raise the Grade participant?

I love that I can create a special bond with a mentor that is here to help me improve in various ways. I’ve known my current mentor, Stewart, for two years and he has helped me so much. The program gave us the opportunity to get to know each other and I’m thankful for his time and guidance.

What are your hopes and goals for the future?

My future goal is to graduate university with a degree in Sport Media and connect with individuals in the media world. My hopes are to work as a sports anchor and journalist for a Sport Media Company such as TSN!

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 Madison!

Madison Granger Wing has been coming to St. Alban’s since she was 5 years old, when she first took beginners swimming classes. She has been coming here for 7 years and considers St. Alban’s her second home. 

How did you hear about the Club and what got you started here? 

My aunt told us how my cousin was playing water polo at the Club and how he had such a fun and interactive experience.  My parents loved the idea of how St. Alban’s was a safe environment that would allow me to thrive in a positive way. 

Describe the feeling you have when you come to the Club. 

When I come to St. Alban’s, I feel excited because I have the opportunity to be on the swim team.  I feel motivated to succeed and set goals for myself because of the great aquatic leaders and coaches. 

What are some of the programs you come to here? 

I have attended the H2O summer program for the last two years and absolutely fell in love with it.  This program is super fun because you get the chance to learn life saving skills while at the same time having fun.  This camp has kept me active in the summer, allowed me to meet lots of new friends and let me go on super fun excursions on Fridays. 

My absolute favourite activity is being on the senior swim team because I feel challenged, important and it makes me set goals for myself.  I love going to swim meets because it lets me show off all of the hard work that I put into swimming. 

If you had to describe what it’s like here to another kid, what would you say? 

I would say St. Albans is a great place to be.  There are tons of fun activities like baking club, skateboard club, and swim team.  Thanks to the great staff at St. Albans, you will always be able to feel safe, welcome and be able to express your ideas freely. 

Who is your favourite leader and why? 

Fabian is my favourite leader because he always gives me the challenge to be a better swimmer and he pushes me to pass the goals I set for myself.  He is very thoughtful and kind and he goes the extra mile by helping us on his free time.  He makes you feel good about yourself when you try your best and he is the best coach ever. 

The people of St. Alban’s: Meet Akash and Paloma

Meet two of our senior preschoolers, Akash, who is 5 years old and loves sports and Paloma, who is 6 years old, and wants to be an astronaut when she grows up! 

Meet Akash

What is the best part of being at St. Alban’s ?
Because it’s fun!

What do you like to do most of all?   
Playing and doing sports stuff.

What is something your teachers always say to you?
My teacher at school always says, “you are ready for the 2nd grade.”

What is the hardest thing about being 5yrs old?
People bullying me.

What do you do when they bully you?
I tell on them or I figure out the problem to stop them.

What do you want to be when you are all grown up?
I want to be a sports player and an architect. 

What kind of sports do you want to play?
Tennis, basketball, soccer, baseball and volleyball. 

How are you going to do so many things?  That’s a lot. 
Being an architect won’t take a lot of time. There will be other architects.

What makes you happy?
My mom and my dad.

What makes you sad?
People bullying me or somebody died.

If you could grow anything in the yard, what would it be?
Tomatoes, turnips, onions for my family – I don’t like them, basil and grass so I can play soccer.

What makes you feel brave?
My mom and my dad and my sister.

What makes you feel loved?
My mom and my dad and my sister.

How do you show people you care?
Give them hugs.

What is your favorite food?
Macaroni and cheese and pizza and gnocchi.

If you could do anything right now, what would you do?
Play sports.

What do you look forward to when you wake up?
Brushing my teeth after eating breakfast and eating and loving my family.

What’s your Superhero name and what powers do you have?
Captain Weatherman and I can make undertows in the ocean and make rain for turnips to grow and make a blizzard and snow.

Describe a great day. What are you doing that makes it special?
Playing every sport and just be with my parents and have a picnic with ice cream and then go out to dinner.

What animal would make a great driver?
A moose would make the worst driver cause he would see the moose crossing signs and stop driving.
The best driver would be a monkeys and gorillas because they’re the most like us.
The slowest driver would be a sloth.

What are three things you want to do this summer?
I am going to Costa Rica. I want to zipline in the rainforest like Tarzan.
I want to go to Hawaii, Japan and India. I really want to see a tsunami in Japan and Hawaii. 
I want to go to St. Alban’s every day to see Anna.

What makes someone smart?
Being able to play a chess game.

Meet Paloma!

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

Playing outside on the playground.

What do you like to do most of all?   

Play Kitty Kat with my kitty cat.

What is the hardest thing about being 6 yrs old?

Washing the dishes is the hardest. [Editor’s note: Paloma’s mom says Paloma doesn’t do the dishes.] 

What do you want to be when you are all grown up?

I love to do lots of things, but I want to be a scientist and an astronaut and blah blah blah.

What does blah blah blah mean? 

Whenever you say something you always say blah blah blah afterwards.

What makes you happy?

Everything.

What makes you sad?

Nothing.

If you could grow anything in the yard, what would it be?

An Orange blossom tree.  But no more it’s too many plants – there’s not enough space.

What makes you feel brave?

Kitty Kat’s eyes because they glow in the dark.  It’s like a flashlight.

What makes you feel loved?

My mommy and my daddy and my kitty cat.

How do you show people you care?

Huggies.

What is your favourite food?

Shrimp with garlic.  My mommy makes it.

What animal would make a great driver?

No animals can drive cars!  They have no hands!

What are three things you want to do this summer?

I only want to fly kites!

What makes someone smart?

Figuring out 300 piece puzzles and colouring peacocks!

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.

 

Want to be a lifeguard? Brendan tells us how!

Hi! My name is Brendan, and I’ve been a lifeguard and swimming instructor here at St. Alban’s for over three years. I love what I do, and I’m going to explain how you can get certified as a lifeguard and swim instructor so that you can do it too.

If you want to be a lifeguard and swim teacher, the first thing you have to do is to learn how to swim. If you don’t already know how, then take some lessons at St. Alban’s, because we have so many teachers who’d love to help you learn. Or if you just want to get back into practice then come to our pool for a lane swim or family swim.

Once you know how to swim, the first step towards getting started is to take your Bronze courses, which introduce you to how to save people in pools or even lakes. There are three levels of Bronze course; Bronze Star, Bronze Medallion and Bronze Cross, but if you’re 13 or older then you can skip Bronze Star and go straight into Bronze Medallion.

After getting your Bronze Medallion and Cross, you’ll need to take a Standard First Aid course, with CPR level C, before your lifeguard course. After all, it wouldn’t be good if lifeguards could pull people out of the water but didn’t know how to treat them afterwards! This First Aid course will teach you many first aid concepts including how to use an AED and how to treat all sorts of injuries.

If you’re First Aid Certified and have Bronze Medallion and Cross, then congratulations! You’re ready to take the National Lifeguard course! This is an intense crash course, which usually takes two weekends to test you on everything you’ve learned in the Bronze and First Aid courses. And that’s just the beginning – it also makes sure you’re a great swimmer, and teaches you all sorts of pool-specific skills such as how to remove people from the water using a spinal board.
Once you get this certification you’re a full lifeguard.

If you want, you can now take an instructor course which will let you pass on your love and skill for swimming to others. There are even more advanced instructor courses, which I haven’t taken yet, but which I might do someday. These courses teach you how to pass on your first aid knowledge to others, or even how to certify new lifeguards!
I hope this has been helpful in teaching you how to become a lifeguard and swim instructor, and I hope to see you soon at the pool practicing your swimming, or maybe even guarding with me!

(All the courses that Brendan mentioned are offered here at St. Alban’s – you can read the program descriptions and sign up online.) 

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 yash@impactskateclub.com and follow Impact on social media: 

instagram.com/impactskateclub

facebook.com/impactskateboardclub

 

The People of St. Alban’s: Lawrence

Meet Lawrence Manu, a staff member in our Jane and Finch community who has been working with us for three years.

What department do you work in?

I am the site lead for the Driftwood Court location in the Jane and Finch Boys and Girls Club community.

What are your favourite activities to do with the kids here?

The children at the Driftwood Court location have shown great strengths when it comes to expressing their feelings and opinions.  Activities such as debating on various topics, role playing scenarios, and having group discussion about their day stands out to me. Visiting other locations to engage in friendly competition, in basketball, soccer and dodge ball has also been some of the most memorable moments.

How do you think working here prepares you for your future?

The Boys and Girls Club has allowed me to absorb several skills that can be utilized in most social worker fields. Practicing patience and understanding different personality traits goes along way and will always be fundamental for future endeavors.  Working with the children has greatly improved my social skills. I have learned how to relay my message effectively by using different tones and body language that can be understood by all. Last but not least, engaging with the children from various backgrounds and cultures has given me a broad sense of the many perspective one may view the world from.

What has been the best part about working here?

The best part about working here is bringing joy and excitement to the children in the program. When you walk into a room and they greet you with smiles and cheers is an amazing feeling in itself and reminds me of the remarkable work I am doing in the community.

What would you tell a parent who is considering signing their child up for a program here?

The Boys and Girls Club serves the community by providing after school homework assistance to those who seek it. We promote outdoor and indoor recreational activity that encourage a healthy physical lifestyle. The overall goal is to provide a safe and structured environment.