“I have spent a lot of time here at the community centre. I was in an after-school program from four to six and then started back at nine or 10. I’m 15 now and I volunteer at the centre. I want to be a psychologist for young children one day.
I love it here. There is a book mobile, and an arts room, and a lounge area with a TV and video games, and we learn skills like cooking. I’ve learned how to use knives and the stove and how to make pastas and pizzas.
The music room is really where I prefer to be most. It’s where I am most comfortable. There are pianos, drums, guitars and microphones. The music room has helped me grow as a performer and I’m now part of the glee club at school. It used to be if I could see the audience, I would seize up. There are still moments I get really nervous but now I can calm down and perform.
I’ve also learned how to interact with other people and be confident. I used to be aggressive as a child and I was always fighting with my siblings and other kids. The centre has taught me to think before I have a reaction. I wasn’t the best kid when I first came here. So, it’s very fulfilling for me to go from being that kid to volunteering here. I can help the kids who are like me.
When I was younger, I was hanging out with kids who maybe weren’t the best for me to be with. When I came to this program, I began to distance myself from them. My life would be very different now if it wasn’t for that.
This place is a second home to me. I am the oldest. I have a sister, two brothers and two stepbrothers. This is where I can get away from my family and have time just to myself. We have created a family and community here. It’s an outlet and a place to be safe. We have positive role models here who care about us. This is a very special place.
I know that I definitely would not have the confidence I have without participating here at the centre. It’s helped me in so many ways and my mom is very proud of me. She’s proud of the volunteer hours I’ve put in, which is more than 250 hours at last count.
Without the program, there would be so many more of us joining gangs and causing trouble. If I wasn’t here, we all know what would be happening right now.”