Sarah, 17, joined the Ambassador School in 2011 at the age of 15. She was referred to the program by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and her social worker, who asked Ambassador School staff to take her on "because no one else would.” Sarah was a deeply gang-affiliated youth, with strong criminal ties, heavy drug use, and significant behavioural issues. Prior to her placement at the Ambassador School she had never stayed in a school placement for more than one month and had no high school credits. Although the TDSB only asked the school to keep Sarah for two months, she quickly became connected to the program and its staff, and at the end of the two months requested that she be allowed to stay longer. The staff quickly agreed and last June, Sarah completed her first year of high school ever; she is enrolled again for the current school year and now has 12 high school credits. Sarah has successfully transitioned away from most of her gang and criminal life and is now seeking support to begin reducing her drug use. Her goal is to complete high school one day and then gain a post - secondary education to become a law clerk.
Carol, 24 year old married student in her in her second year of the Architectural Technology program at George Brown. Her husband is unable to work after a workplace incident and she holds two part-time jobs while attending school Full Time to support the family. Her scholarship from the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation has enabled her to continue as a student and reduce her hours at work to focus on her studies.
“I actually see myself going off to college now and becoming a lawyer or Child and Youth Worker.” – Robert, current Ambassador School student
My name is Jeffery. Last year my sister and I came to YWS. When we got here, we were welcomed and made to feel at home. I used to call it a shelter but after sometime I called it home. I met with staff that always made sure you are on track with school and life in general. I want to thank the people that help make this shelter work because you give us hope and a reason to live. I am a 17 year old boy in college studying mechanical engineering and my sister is in her second year studying Bachelor of Nursing. What contributed to our success is the help that we got from the shelter. Thanks for the contributions, the help and smiles that you and the staff put on everyone’s faces every day.” (Jeffery, age 17, former YWS resident).
Jane is a 34 year old woman, married with two children who commutes daily, from Burlington. She’s an immigrant from Ghana who is in her second year of the George Brown Practical Nursing Program thanks to a scholarship from the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation. She is now able to see an obtainable career which will impact her family in a positive way.
Nathan is 20 years old and a former student at the Ambassador School. He has been involved with the Children’s Aid Society since the age of four, when he was frequently witness to and the target of significant abuse. During his adolescent years, Nathan moved continuously from group home to group home and became increasingly involved with gang activity and drug use. After being stabbed in the arm in an incident with a rival gang member, Nathan was approached by a friend who had recently graduated from the Ambassador School and recommended it to him. Encouraged by his friend’s success, Nathan contacted the program and enrolled in September of 2010. Prior to become an Ambassador student, Nathan had been suspended or expelled from every school program he had ever attended. At the Ambassador School, he found the support, encouragement, and resources necessary to not only commit to completing school, but to excel. While at the Ambassador School, Nathan attended every single day. He discovered an interest in history, music, and dance, and worked hard at sharing his story with as many young people as he possibly could through the Ambassador SpeakOut Program: during the two years he was an Ambassador student, Nathan spoke to nearly 4,000 Grade 7 and 8 students about his experiences. Nathan recently graduated from high school as an Ambassador School student. He is currently working on saving money for college and developing a growing music career.
“The Ambassador School got me on the right track. My goal now is to go to college and study business so I can start my own computer business.” – Brandon, current Ambassador School student
Nancy says that coming to YWS was like being welcomed into a “home”. The youth and staff became her family. “I am the impact of donations to the shelter. What I have achieved would not have been possible without all those who support YWS. If I former resident of YWS can come back and give, then anyone can give. It does not have to be a big donation, many small donations can make a difference.” (Nancy, now a public health nurse).
John is a 29 year old who lives in TCHA in their second year of Electromechanical Engineering Technology – Building Automation Program at George Brown. He’s the first person in his family to attend a post-secondary education program thanks to the scholarship from the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation. This education is having a positive impact on his life.
Elizabeth’s Story: Nothing Elizabeth did was ever good enough for her father. Conflict with her father escalated to the point that on her 16th birthday Elizabeth’s father kicked her out. This did not make sense to Elizabeth as in her words she was “a great student, teen leader and simply a decent teen that most parents would be proud of.” When Elizabeth arrived at Youth Without Shelter (YWS) she was homeless, confused, scared and angry because she didn’t want to be hurt anymore.
Today, Elizabeth shares: “It took the staff team to open my eyes, reminding me that I do have potential…things could get better, but I would have to go out and get it. I started to engage in all that YWS had to offer: housing information sessions, art, and cooking. I learned how to cook different foods, more advanced computer techniques, how to write an effective resume, and a little valuable thing called time management. I knew better things were to come if I allowed them to help me and I did. This place should be called “Youth With Support”.
Elizabeth is now attending college full-time in a Social Services Worker Program. Her goal is to assist “young adults in the future to strive towards their own self-sufficiency.”
Susan is 26 years old who commutes daily from NE Scarborough (90min each way) who is in her second year of the Child and Youth Worker Program at George Brown. She is unable to receive OSAP because of identity theft which is currently being contested, is a full time student and volunteers at the Covenant House and Redwood. Thanks to the scholarship from the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation she is able to make her dreams a reality.
“I can recall very clearly when I first came in, I was so hesitant in life of where to go, even of what I wanted to be. I was in my darkest days of my life but through all this the shelter staff were like they were supporting their own son…I wouldn’t have been the adult I’m today if it wasn’t for the support Youth Without Shelter gave to me. Thank you taking the time look beyond my struggles and mistakes.” (V. former YWS resident).
“I am everyday grateful for your existence for you have made a difference in my life. I once resided under your roof for what I recall was 3 months long. YWS helped me get to where I am now. I am an individual of a specialized profession working my way up in the real world. YWS helped create the person that I am and I will forever be grateful for that. There are those who succeed in life from your contributions.” (Anonymous holiday card received at YWS).
Debra is 20 years old in her second year of the Theatre Arts program at George Brown. She has 5 brothers and sisters and was born in Rwandan during the genocide and is involved in a charity that funds local theatres in Rwanda. Due to her scholarship from the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation she is well on her way to graduation.
George’s story: Growing up George’s family life was in constant turmoil. Early on George spent time in foster care when his Dad could not control his temper. At 16, George made the decision to leave home when his father insisted he drop out of school, and make money, an education was not needed. He turned to “couch surfing” moving from one friends home to the next. When that was no longer an option he found his way to a shelter. Throughout it all George remained in school, he was determined to get an education.
It was a shelter housing worker who recommended George apply to Youth Without Shelter’s Stay in School Program. Eight months ago George moved into our Stay in School Program. “I’ve found the resources I need to be able to focus on finishing school. I can concentrate on my studies, there are computers, quiet spaces. Bus fare had become a big obstacle in getting to school. I really value the TTC pass provided in SIS. Have you seen the bulletin board? I have even been the Student of the Month.”
George has now finished Grade 12 and is attending an adult high school to take additional courses and improve his marks. George’s favorite subject is Chemistry, where he recently received a grade of 95% What’s next for George? College. George’s goal is to be a paramedic.
Dave is 30 years old in their second year of the Architectural Technology Program Ontario College Advanced Diploma at George Brown. He’s the son of immigrants from the Caribbean and lived his entire life in a low-income situation in Downtown Toronto and returned to school after working in retail sales because of the scholarship from the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation.