This emotional slide is not unique to me. It is a commonplace narrative of despondency among youth in the Jane and Finch community of Toronto — a neighbourhood where nearly a quarter of residents are on social assistance and high school graduation rates are low.
If it wasn’t for basketball, a few caring mentors and teachers, family and my brother’s constant reminder to, “focus on ball and school… be the best,” I don’t know where I would be today.
As a teacher with the Toronto District School Board and a PhD candidate in York University’s Faculty of Education, I now focus my research on mental health and its influence on the success of Black youth throughout our education system.
However, although treatment is important, our society is far too treatment-oriented.
We should consider investing into programs that focus on the development of mental hygiene.
Generation Chosen, an inner city program tailored to the needs of disenfranchised youth, does exactly this.
The focus of the program is on mental health, emotional intelligence, education, jobs and recreation – keystone items we have identified as dictating the social mobility of those most vulnerable in our society.
A program that saves lives
Generation Chosen tackles monthly themes that are often conceptualized as being taboo, such as fear, hate, forgiveness, resilience, love, stress, vision and identity.
Each topic is addressed through four components: Anchor Sessions (30 minute hands-on group activities that build team work, catalyze introspection, elicit vulnerability and promote meaningful relationships); Anchor Talks (30 minute themed talks infused with multi-media and provocative discussions); Educational Workshops (monthly visits from professionals who are culturally similar to our youth and can speak about their work experience); and finally a ChozenTrip (a field trip that brings everything discussed and experienced in the month together).
The program has been very successful in creating positive change for its participants in its two years of operation.
We have helped 13 participants apply to get into college and university programs, connected youth with various job opportunities, helped homeless youth obtain shelter, inspired youth to disassociate themselves from gangs and repaired broken family relationships.
Many have even said that the program saved their lives.
One such instance of this was in July 2016. Some of our youth were reluctant to attend programming that evening, as the offer of driving around with neighbourhood friends seemed like a more appealing evening plan.
If we assume the population of Black youth 15-24 years of age has stayed at around 17 per cent of the Black population since 2001, the total number of Black youth between the age of 15 and 24 years would be about 203,752.
Using this value, the promised $19 million investment for Black youth amounts to an allotment of approximately $93.25 per person over five years. That is about $18.65 per person per year.
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