Joshua Phillips got to see the world from a much different vantage point recently than the one he’s accustomed to. He also got to hear about a world of possibilities that are open to him in future.
Joshua (pictured above, left), was among a group of 26 Grade 12 students from some of Toronto’s less affluent neighbourhoods who spent a day on the 28th floor of one of Scotiabank’s downtown offices. There, staff from across the Bank – portfolio manager, traders, salespeople, lawyers, accountants, marketers and more – told the students how they got to the professional heights they did, and how the kids could too.
“We heard about a lot of different jobs and different stories on how they got their jobs,” said Joshua, who aspires to a career in computer engineering. “This shows us that anything is possible.”
The themes they heard from the speakers at the mentorship event were universal – work hard, learn as much as you can and find your passion.
The message from Vishal Patel, Vice President and Portfolio Manager at Scotiabank’s 1832 Asset Management, had particular resonance. Patel said he grew up in a tough neighbourhood in Montreal with parents who worked minimum wage jobs. He said he fell in love with the stock market at the age of 12. He now manages $4 billion in clients’ money. Many enthusiastic questions later, the youth were keen to set up practice trading accounts of their own.
The mentoring day was organized by Trust15, a not-for-profit organization that provides youth in the North Etobicoke and Rexdale neighbourhoods of Toronto with social and educational tools to succeed. Many children growing up in these neighbourhoods face disproportionate levels of poverty, abuse and violence.
The founder and executive director of Trust 15, Marcia Brown, has lived in the community her whole life. She tries to give her young charges opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach. She provides after-school drop-in programs to about 120 youth in the community and connects them with mentors and professionals to teach them tips for success and to inspire them to believe in themselves. Michelle Obama and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau are among former mentors.
Brown had chosen the kids coming to this session carefully. They were the shyer ones, the ones who didn’t always speak up for themselves – she wanted to give them a nudge. She said a few of the youngsters live in shelters and some have been solicited by gang members. Others needed her help buying the clothes they were wearing to the event so they would feel appropriately dressed.
“Being from a low income neighbourhood, opportunities don’t come around very often, and Trust 15 makes those opportunities happen,” Joshua said. “The people at Scotiabank were very excited to talk to us and tell us to never give up and to believe in yourself, and that’s one of the main things Trust 15 talks to us about.”
This is the second mentorship day run by Jim Morris, Chief Operating Officer of Scotiabank’s 1832 Asset Management. He hopes to make it an annual event.
“I can’t wait to see in a few years how some of the participants grow and develop in their school and work careers,” Morris said. “If we impacted only one student today, it would have been worth it.”
For more information on Trust 15 and how you can help, visit trust15.com.