Categorized | Youth Organization

Dream – Dream Big and It Will Come!

Posted on 23 June 2010 by .

After four years of discussing, planning, waiting, and much hard work, the lower level of 1652 Keele Street is finally now home to For Youth Initiative’s (FYI) new Community Youth Hub.  Fully furnished with brand new and functional equipment, this expansion serves as a space for youth to further develop socially, creatively and physically. The new space includes: a computer lab, a dance studio, a music recording studio, an activity hall, a kitchen, a meeting room, new office space, additional storage space, and outdoor amenities.

It all started in 2006 as a part of a visioning charette with a fourth year class from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, led by Professor Adrian Blackwell.  When asked what type of space would be most wanted in the community, the youth at FYI were quick to voice their wish list of wants and needs. With the initial architectural plans drawn up (for the whole of 1652 Keele Street) for renovation, FYI advocated for unused space for young people in the lower level to be opened up for community use.  In 2007, FYI was successful in securing an additional 4,000 square feet of space for programs and services.

After two more years of fundraising and a 9 month construction process, the young people in our community finally have a space to attend that’s designed, created, and available just for them.   What’s even more amazing? The new space was built not only FOR them, but ultimately BY them!  Yes, you read that right – as part of this unique project, FYI had a critical goal of making sure that young people living in the community, who were out of work and out of school, were trained and hired by the general contractor to build the new space.

Through the support of many key partners (Carpenters’ Local Union 27 Joint Apprenticeship & Training Trust Fund – Local 27, Gateway Cafe’s Get in Gear Program, Youth Employment Services’ Job Connect Program as well as the following City of Toronto divisions: Social Development, Finance, and Administration; Facilities and Real Estate Department; Human Resources; Fair Wage Office; Youth Employment Toronto; and Toronto Employment and Social Services) 10 youth were given an opportunity to go from being unemployed to a pre-apprentice in the trades industry.  The youth were certified in various safety areas including: WHIMIS, Hoist & Rigging, Fall Protection, Safety Express (Respirator), Aerial Tech (Scissor Lift) and Confined Spaces.  They also got to try out many different trades such as drywall, plastering, floors, painting, and more.  All the time they spent on the project are eligible to apply to the first year of an apprenticeship.

On April 30th,  FYI held an official open house to launch the new Community Youth Hub in the lower level of 1652 Keele Street. At the event, Mayor David Miller highlighted the project saying “This is the first time that the City of Toronto has linked its procurement practices to its commitment to community development and I would like to thank the youth of Weston – Mt. Dennis for leading the way.”  He went on to say “The City of Toronto used this project to test the idea that when we build something we should use it as a training opportunity for young people from the neighbourhood in which it’s built.”  FYI is greatly pleased to have led this process and hopes this precedence will be upheld with future projects.

This project could not of happened without the generous donation from the George and Rachel Kostman Family and the financial supports of the City of Toronto’s Partnership Opportunities Legacy (POL) fund and the Youth Challenge Fund.  The project was a success not only for the youth but also to our staff who are now able to provide astounding programs in a better space, with all the necessary tools present. Coming out of this project, it has increased the capacity of local youth and helped us handle the capacity of our program attendance. We have found that more regular participants are attending and also bringing their peers in to join programs. We invite all to stop in and see the new space and to meet the young people who now call it theirs.

Author:Lekan Olawoye, Executive Director,For Youth Initiative

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