Tropicana program helps youths to 'ManUp'

Tropicana program helps youths to 'ManUp'

June 17, 2017

Heading down a path to destruction, Izaiah Mulcare applied the brakes just in time to stop and decide his future.

Becoming a gang member, selling drugs, going to jail or possibly dying young didn’t seem to be cool after all for the teenager who, earlier this year, chose to join a youth mentoring program in Scarborough.

Administered by Tropicana Community Services Organization (TCSO), ManUp is a life, social and recreational skills development program for young men between the ages of 14-26.

“I was on the wrong path,” said Mulcare. “I have only being in this program for three months, but the experience has being enriching and I like where I am going.”

The Grade 10 Blessed Cardinal Newman Catholic High School student aspires to be a transmission technician and part-time network administrator.

Mulcare and other program participants interacted with guests at TCSO’s third annual signature fundraiser, ‘Uplifting Spirits’, recently

The proceeds went to the ManUp program aimed at providing young men with the confidence to make decisions that will positively impact them.

Nearly $28,000 was raised.

“This is our program of choice this year because it is one of our many life-altering programs that offer young men the mentorship and leadership skills they need to become successful in their lives,” said TCSO executive director Sharon Shelton.

Tyreke Sherman said the program is exactly what he needs to grow and excel.

“I am a basketball player, so I come here and use the gym to train,” he said. “It is also helping to enhance my life and cooking skills.”

Sherman hopes to make it to the National Basketball Association (NBA).

When asked about his back-up plan, the teenager said he doesn’t have one right now.

“Plan B is to make Plan A work,” was Sherman’s response.

Facilitator Travoy Williams said ManUp is a platform for youth leadership and guidance.

“Somewhere along the line, they get lost and we are here to give them that direction,” he said. “I was in the same position as they were before they came here and that’s the reason I am working with young people. I am not very much older than these young men, so I am able to communicate with them and fill in a lot of the things that get lost in translation.”

Nolan White, a volunteer and youth co-ordinator, said the young people have potential to be useful societal citizens.

“All they need is some direction, he said. “Ten years ago, I was where they are at. I was introduced to a youth program and that, in turn, assisted me in getting into music and on a path where I could succeed. I am taking some of the life skills I learnt and trying to pass it on these youths. In many instances, they just need someone to listen to them and talk to. That’s what we are doing here and, in the process trying to help them figure out what they want to do.”

ManUp co-ordinator Jason Yorke-Best joined the program two years ago.

“There were eight young men and now we have about 32,” he said. “We are providing them with the courage and discipline to be accountable for their actions.”

He extended the age limit from 18 to 26.

“There are some individuals out there coming out of school who are that transition period,” said Yorke-Best. “Some are looking for the right job, others are still not sure what they want to do and a few are young dads who are living at home and need that space and support.”

The program takes place on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

On the first Thursday of each month, a barber is brought in to give the youths a free haircut. They do Jiu-Jitsu self-defence training the following week and a representative from an external agency facilitates workshops on the third Thursday of the month.

The participants go on tours or watch a movie on the last Thursday of the month.

The program is designed to have two five-month cycles where participants who complete each cycle will receive a certificate of completion that can be presented as a ‘rites of passage’ and accumulation of community hours.

As part of the ‘Ontario150 Community Capital Program’ which a one-time funding program launched as part of the province’s initiative to commemorate the sesquicentennial anniversary of Canada and Ontario, TCSO received $9,400 to repair the roof and replace two safety access ladders.

Maureen Lynch of the OTF grant review team joined Member of Provincial Parliament Soo Wong in presenting a plaque to TCSO to mark the grant provision.

Maureen Lynch (l), TCSO president Jenny Gumbs and MPP Soo Wong

Maureen Lynch (l), TCSO president Jenny Gumbs and MPP Soo Wong

“Having safe, comfortable and energy efficient community spaces is vital,” said Lynch. “When we received your request for this grant, we saw the value in your vision.”

Using the $600,000 it raised in five years and $1.36 million of a major capital grant from the provincial government, Canada’s largest Black social service delivery agency acquired its own building seven years ago at 135 Huntingwood Dr. in Scarborough.

Late community worker Robert Brown, who died 12 years ago, established TCSO which was United Way’s first Black member agency in 1984. While enrolled at the University of Toronto in the 1970s, Brown and a few other students were assigned a project that involved the preparation of a needs assessment survey of a community in southern Ontario.

The group chose the then Borough of Scarborough and, in conducting the survey, discovered that young people in the area faced serious challenges. Determined to act, the team quickly moved to prepare an audited report of its findings and solicit broad support for the at-risk youths.

The TCSO was set up in 1980 as a non-profit agency to serve disadvantaged youth and their families. Through its myriad diverse programs, the agency aims to increase the rate of self-employment for youth, improve access to culturally-appropriate counseling services and reduce the school drop-out rate among Black students.


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