Community welcomes youth immigration centre

TDSB trustee Nadia Bello, MP John McKay, Councillor Ron Moeser and Newcomer Services project administrator Bantu Mutenka cut a ceremonial cake at the open house for the new Kingston-Galloway centre for youth newcomer services. (Tevy Pilc/Toronto Observer)
TDSB trustee Nadia Bello, MP John McKay, Councillor Ron Moeser, Newcomer Services project administrator Bantu Mukena and CIC funder Angela Bourikos cut a ceremonial cake at the open house for the new Kingston-Galloway centre for youth newcomer services. (Tevy Pilc/Toronto Observer) (welcome_centre_033009)

Overcome with emotion, Frankie Zhang started to cry.

“I have been enrolled in the Host Mentorship Program for about four months,” said Zhang, a Grade 9 student at Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute. “I emigrated from China and have been in Canada for almost three years.”

Frankie is just one of several young immigrants active with the Newcomer Services for Youth (NSY), which held an open house at one of its new centres March 19. The storefront facility on Kingston Road, south of Lawrence Avenue, was filled to capacity, as guests enjoyed in the celebrations.

The new location will help serve the settlement needs of immigrant youth between the ages of 13 to 24 in East Scarborough. The centre is one of four new locations in Toronto, including one in Malvern, providing support.

Guests included local MP John McKay and Councillor Ron Moeser, who alongside organizers cut the ceremonial ribbon and cake.

“It’s neat to see the community try and bring itself together,” McKay said. “There are so many types of communities and the tendencies to do our own things, yet people come to Canada and become Canadian and this is one of those facilities that allow everyone to become Canadian.”

The event also featured raffles and prizes, refreshments and a special performance by local singer, Damone Clarke.

The centre opened nearly six months ago at the start of the school year.

“We’re the first agency of its kind in this area,” said Yasmin Dinally, NSY Intake Orientation and Outreach Director. “We’re unique because we only serve ages 13 to 24, but right now we’re trying to service basically everyone in the community.”

Organized and operated by the TDSB, the NSY offers a variety of programs and services for immigrant youths in Toronto. One of its central parts is the mentorship program, which matches a student with one of the volunteers or workers with NSY. The centre also helps people with building job résumés.

“There aren’t a whole lot of social services here in East Scarborough,” Ward 22 trustee, Nadia Bello said. “We’re really under-resourced, but a place like this can become a place where all youth can gather, like a safe space for youth, and become adjusted and integrated.”

“It gives you a lot of opportunities, like free trips and help with job searches,” said Advait Kirtane, a grade 11 student from Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute. He came to Canada eight months ago. He frequents the centre as an afterschool hub where he can do his work, browse the internet, or just relax.

Like many other students, Kirtane found out about the centre and program through fliers at school. The centre also provides services for out-of-school youth seeking assistance.