I grew up in Jane-Finch, a tough neighbourhood where negative influences threaten the successful development of youth. While my family life was stable, not all my friends could say the same. Many of them were 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 pilot program at my elementary school. The program focused on skills you don’t learn in a formal way at school – stress-management, conflict resolution, effective communication, and most importantly, goal setting.
Although I knew I would go to high school and college, I didn’t know how I was going to get there, or what I wanted to do when I did. My mentor, Janet King, encouraged me to set goals and understand the steps I needed to take. 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.
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 Kids Now program 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 stay connected with Kids Now so I can give back to an organization that gave me so much at a critical period in my life. I am currently recruiting potential Kids Now volunteers 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 participant of Kids Now, 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
Jennifer, my mentor, showed us what we were capable of accomplishing in life when you make positive decisions. She was amazing! Jennifer created a safe environment where we felt comfortable talking about our different issues. 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.
Now I’m paying it forward
Kids Now 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.
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.
Valuable life lessons
In high school and put to practice some of the lessons I learned at Kids Now – I’m a leader at my school and I know how to manage my time and get my work done. I am always going to remember the awesome experience with Kids Now and I hope this program continues to help other students.
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 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!
Kids Now gave me the tools that I needed, like knowing how to deal with stress, communicate properly, build my confidence, set goals and especially 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 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!