By Dwain Wellington Rattray
Pride Contributing Editor
RICHMOND HILL, Ontario – “Our young people are not just 20 percent of our population; they are 100 percent of our future.” Spoken by Senator Don Meredith at the reopening of the GTA Faith Alliance (GTAFA) Learning Centre in Richmond Hill, last Thursday, that sentence is the impetus for continued investment in youth.
Meredith, who is also an ordained minister and pastor, serves as president of the GTAFA Learning Centre, an organization dedicated to developing youth programs and community services to help end violence among young people and strengthen families.
The centre will provide training and mentorship to help source jobs and better integrate youth within society.
Graduating from less than 1,000 square feet, the new facility of 6,700 square feet will accommodate programs geared towards young people, aged 12 to 28, offering counselling, as well as hands-on job training, including intensive computer-based education, job placements, resume writing and interview skills.
The centre will also offer academic tutoring (Grades 1 – 12), dance, after-school care, and homework assistance, to name a few.
During the reopening ceremony, Rev. Meredith noted several times that it is the mission of the Learning Center to, “engage, encourage and empower young people.”
In a society that often leaves young people jaded, students at the center were encouraged to grasp the brass ring presented to them.
“I hope this facility will open up new opportunities so you will be able to, one day, replace politicians like me and Senator Meredith,” said Dave Barrow, Mayor of the Town of Richmond Hill.
This was the sentiment of the evening as it became evident that acquaintances, colleagues and friends of Meredith present, all shared this singular vision of youth investment. “Its missions, goals and objectives are most noble,” says Dr. Robert Goodwin III, Chairman, Board of Governors and President of New Westminster College, who conferred the honour of Distinguished Fellow of the college upon the Senator.
The GTAFA Learning Centre partnered with many individuals and organizations to not only get the new building up and running, but also to facilitate and help sustain many of its programs. Partners range from the Carpenters’ Union to the media company, Kingdom Buzz.
Chris Campbell, who is Business Representative and Organizer of Local 27 with the Carpenters’ District Council, spent one week with three other carpenters getting the new building ready for full operation.
Campbell met Meredith while both served on the Black Community Consultative Committee of the Toronto Police Service. When asked why he decided to partner with the Learning Center, Campbell remarked that Sen. Meredith had, “Gained my adoration.”
This is the measure of one man’s work to give a slice of one generation hope. It is simple then to become, “excited about being part of that investment,” as noted by Sam Tita, President of Kingdom Buzz Group.
Under Tita’s guidance, the media house will facilitate a television recording studio, thereby providing invaluable training and experience, both behind and in front, of the camera.
“When you know the heart of a founder of an organization, it becomes a very compelling case to partner,” Tita says. He continued, “It’s one thing to clothe (an individual), it’s another to empower.”
The message is clear regarding the mandate and expectation of the facility and its programs.
Well respected public servant and former politician, Mary Anne Chambers, condensed it sweetly when she invoked the wisdom of slave-born abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, by quoting him thus: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”