I grew up in Jane-Finch, considered one of the toughest neighbourhoods in the city, where negative influences threaten the successful development of youth. While my family life was stable and my parents were supportive, not all my friends had the same stability at home. Many of them were heading down wrong paths, making poor choices that affect their lives to this day.
kids.now helped set me on the right path
In 1999, I participated in the kids now pilot program at my elementary school. I saw that this program was different. It focused on skills you don’t to learn anywhere else in a formal way – skills such as stress-management, conflict resolution, effective communication, and most importantly, goal setting.
Although I always thought I would complete high school and go on to college or university, I didn’t really know or even think about how I was going to get there, or what I wanted to do when I did. My mentor, Janet King, the President and Founder of kids now, helped set me by encouraging me to set goals and understand the steps I needed to take to accomplish them. While the goals I set for myself turned out slightly different than I planned at the age of 13, kids.now helped me develop a “forward thinking” mentality early on, contributing to both my academic and professional success. kids now helped get me where I am today.
Now I’m on the road to success
In 2009, I completed my commerce and finance degree at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. I recently started my own business, Product Intelligence Inc., which provides financial analysis and risk assessments to alternative investment groups. I’m also an officer and shareholder of a commercial real estate investment company, and recently accepted a junior management role in BMO Financial Group’s corporate real estate division.
My participation in the kids now program also laid the foundation for my strong commitment to supporting community and youth development. In recent years, I have assumed two executive Board positions with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the largest student-run organization in the world, and helped initiate the Toronto Youth Legacy Program to encourage high school students to pursue technical career fields. As an executive of the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) Leaders of Tomorrow Organizing Committee, I engaged in the planning and hosting of the annual Leaders of Tomorrow Conference, which included 300 high school students and over 30 corporate executives.
I recently reconnected with kids now to say thanks and find out how I could give back to an organization that had given me so much at a critical period in my life. I’ve agreed to help recruit potential kids.now volunteer mentors from my network to provide more kids with positive role models and the skills and direction they need to do great things with their lives.
As a former participant of the kids now program, I experienced firsthand the advantage of having a mentor. As a university student with a dream of becoming a teacher and being a youth mentor myself, I realize now how privileged I was to be a part of kids now, and how vital a mentor is to a young person.
I gained the confidence I needed to try
I was in grade 8 when I took the kids now program. Jennifer, my kids now mentor showed us what we were capable of accomplishing in life, and guided us to make positive decisions. She was amazing. She created a safe environment where we were comfortable talking about the issues we were dealing with. Jennifer wasn’t about giving us the answers, she simply made us think about what we were capable of. She gave us the confidence we needed to try, and as a result, to this day, I push myself harder to give 110% to everything I do.
The kids now program helped me think about what I wanted for my future while I was still young. I learned how to set short- and long-term goals. I am currently in my fourth year at York University in Toronto, studying to become a teacher and I could not have reached this point without the encouragement, support and guidance of my mentor.
Now I’m paying it forward
My experience with the kids now program left such an impression on me that I decided to volunteer with them! As soon as I turned the eligible age of 21, I applied to become a mentor. It’s my way of paying it forward.
I realize I was extremely lucky to have someone there to guide me, I can only hope that I can do the same for kids that I mentor through this incredible program.
Leadership, setting goals, conflict resolution, establishing healthy relationships, and motivation. These are just a few of the things I learned from kids now back in 2008. I had an amazing mentor, Phillipa Mullins; she was motivating and her smile and friendly personality made the experience that much better.
I learned valuable life lessons
I’m now in high school and I’ve put to practice some of the lessons I learned at kids now – I’m a leader at my school and I’m able to manage my time and get my work done. I am always going to remember the awesome experience with kids now. I am proud to be a kids.now graduate. I hope this program continues to help other students.
Before he started the kids.now program Scott* was a good student. With a solid group of friends, a supportive family, and several hobbies that kept him busy. But Scott would not be described as a leader. He was quiet and shy and often kept his thoughts and opinions to himself. He would just follow the crowd so as not to stand out too much.
His mother says she started to see a change in Scott as he progressed through the kids now program. “I could see he was gaining confidence,” she says. “The kids.now program helped Scott realize he is an individual who can make his own choices, and that he doesn’t need to be so concerned with what others think. It has opened up a whole new world for him.”
Scott agrees. He admits since taking the kids now program his self-confidence has grown and he has been more willing to try new things, as well as voice his personal opinion more often. He’s also thought more about his future and how he might reach his personal goals, thanks to the kids.now goal-setting module. Now he just needs to decide, will he be a businessman or a professional hockey player, or….both!
*Name and image has been changed for privacy reasons.
When Zhai moved to Canada from China with her parents in May 2009, she had a difficult time fitting in at her new school. She was an ESL student, trying to adapt to a new country, understand a new culture, and make new friends. Not an easy task, especially when she only joined her grade seven class in the last few weeks of the school year. Her teachers say she was very shy and kept to herself.
Zhai admits she felt isolated from her peers before starting the kids now program in October 2009, where she was given the opportunity to meet and interact with kids outside of a classroom setting.
Today, she is much more sociable and has many friends. Her teachers credit the kids now program with building Zhai’s self-confidence. She joined the student council in her final term. Zhai’s academic performance also improved so much she made the honour role last December, and again in March. She’s now looking forward to moving on to secondary school next year, armed with a newfound confidence and new skills that will help her reach her full potential in high school and beyond.
Erica is a 21-year old classroom assistant at a small private school, and also a kids.now program alumni. She was a participant in the program when she was a grade 7 student, and believes kids now helped her lay the foundation for a number of the life-success skills.
Erica explains that her presentation skills improved as a result of her experience with kids now. “Prior to taking the program I was very nervous about speaking in front of groups. During the program, a lot of the activities, such as role-playing and skits, gave me the opportunity to practise standing up in front of people and talking. It helped boost my confidence and improved my communication skills.” Another skill Erica gained from the program is the ability to set goals and follow the correct steps in order to achieve them. “I find I still think of the kids now S.T.A.M.P. goal-setting acronym when planning future steps, even now as a young adult starting a new career.”
Erica’s experience with kids now was so positive, she decided to come back as a volunteer when she turned 21 to give other kids the same good start. “I want to be able to share my experiences and be a role model for kids.” Erica also thinks she continues to benefit from the kids.now program herself, “As a mentor, I can continue to boost my self-confidence, by trying something new. I also think that as a mentor I will continue to improve my leadership skills.”
My name is Reena Patel and I was in the Kids Now program back in 2000, at Eliah Middle School.
Kids Now has been such an inspiring program because it taught me how to succeed in life and be confident in everything that I do. The Kids Now program taught me how to believe in myself and see all the endless potential that I have to succeed in life!
It gave me all the tools that I needed, like being able to deal with stress, communicate properly, build my confidence, goal setting and especially being able to gain self-esteem.
As a grade 8 student who was in a special education class. I was able to have an inspiring mentor who taught me how to believe in myself and in my goals.
After completing the Kids Now program, I was inspired to join our community youth group, The Young Leaders of Jane and Finch. Kids Now helped me find the confidence I needed in order to give back to my community, something I didn’t think was possible for me to do!
The Kids Now program has been such a positive influence in my life and now I have this wonderful opportunity to be able to work with Kids Now and share all of my remarkable experiences!
Thank you, Kids Now.