By Brenlee Coates
Participants in the West Broadway Youth Outreach (WBYO)’s programming are taught to dream with no limits.
“More than they can imagine is possible,” says program coordinator of the WBYO’s Dreams Career Mentorship Program, Rowan Gray. “Whatever they want to do… someone is behind them.
“I think everybody really needs that in their life, no matter your background. To have people that support them.”
West Broadway Youth Outreach’s centre is located at Broadway at Furby Street, and sees youth from all over Winnipeg join its after-school and summer programming. All programming is free and many of the participants are recent immigrants or are from lower-income homes.
Students between ages 9 to 18 who participate in the Dreams program are exposed to several career workshops like a one-on-one mentoring session with someone working in their dream role and tours of different departments at post-secondary institutions.
Students recently attended a physics demonstration; toured the Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex; and met with faculty members at the University of Winnipeg before taking a break in the Duckworth Centre to shoot hoops.
They also met with the dean of engineering at the University of Manitoba. Before that, “they had never heard the word ‘engineer’ before,” says Gray. “It’s a pretty exciting program, there’s all these firsts.”
Grade 6 student Rofiat Agboola dreams of becoming a doctor like her aunt, Tito Daodu, a former WBYO participant. Daodu has since become a mentor to youth in the program.
Helping people makes me happy
“She inspires me,” says Agboola. “I like helping people, and when people are happy it makes me happy.”
Agboola says she learned from the tours that she’d need to spend 10 years at university to become a doctor, and “that we’ve got to stay in school, that we’ve got to really work for it.”
Grade 6 student, Fathi Oladeji, also has big dreams for a future in medicine. “I want to save people’s lives, and I also want to invent new medicine.
“I’m gonna cure cancer – every cancer – no matter what kind.”
Many of the students from the program expressed dreams of becoming doctors. Two of its former participants (including Daodu) have graduated from medical school and have made an impact on the students.
Students expressed career goals varying from “marine biologists to midwives to artists” and “half of the kids have wanted to be doctors,” says Gray.
In the Dreams program they learn about “skills that you can acquire to make you successful, not necessarily career-specific, but life skills,” she says.
Students who partake in the Dreams program have shown promise in the after-school homework club that takes place at the centre, offered twice a week. Gray says the more than 50 students in the Dreams program religiously attend homework club and show interest in the WBYO’s literacy programs.
“It is supposed to be a reward for their hard work in the program,” says Gray, of the tours and the mentorship.
For some students, the one-on-one mentorship meeting is their first time going to a restaurant, or a rare moment they feel like the centre of attention if they are from larger families.
“The kids remember everything about the meeting. They remember what they wore, they remember what they ordered three years ago.”
“It’s an amazing program,” says Gray, who has been working alongside the students for four years.
“It’s really interesting to watch them now because they’re starting to actually think about what they’re doing for post-secondary.”
Gray herself knows what it’s like to go against all odds as a graduate of fine arts.
“I was always running up against people telling me that I couldn’t do it. I know the feeling of not thinking something’s possible and seeing someone doing it and immediately feeling like it’s possible.
“I’d rather be the one to tell them that they can.”