My name is Oweme. I am a part of the MLSE LaunchPad family, and I wrote this to tell you what MLSE LaunchPad means to me.
I was born and raised in Nigeria, West Africa. In the summer of 2018, I came to Canada with my family, and we stayed at Red Door Shelter. I wanted to give back to the community by looking for a network, a job, or a volunteer opportunity. I just wanted to make myself useful as the first of 5 children in my family. I came across a flyer on Red Door's Shelter notice board that showed me a few places to go and volunteer; MLSE Launchpad was one of such, and that's where it all started.
It was my first two weeks in Canada. I rode on the bus to locate MLSE LaunchPad. After walking around the area, I finally saw the logo from the flyer, went in and introduced myself. The staff at the reception welcomed me, and not long after, had me volunteering at MLSE Launchpad in their Boys Leadership Camp. Since I felt so welcomed, I decided to stay involved in other capacities I could function in the space.
I love sports. I loved what MLSE LaunchPad was doing with sports. One of my duties includes assisting in teaching kids life skills through sports. This was important to me because now I felt like I was as well contributing to my community and society. Although I was volunteering, I was building the right connections in a supportive environment. Then I found out about how MLSE LaunchPad offers a 2-month paid program over the summer for youth who aspire to be leaders. The program is called Leaders-In-Training. The program's objective is to train young people and expose them to different opportunities.
I remember the day of my interview at MLSE LaunchPad, my heart was racing, and I was nervous while waiting at the lobby to be called before the board conducting the interview. All the confidence I had built the previous day melted when I stood facing the panel. I wanted this job and would give it my best I assured myself, and really, I got the job! I was so grateful.
I was taught a variety of skill sets based on MLSE LaunchPad's four pillars: healthy body, healthy mind, ready for school, and ready for work. I worked with 19 other youths in the program, and I learned how to develop my professionalism and expand my network. We went on corporate tours, where I gained insights about working in different career fields. I learned from youth mentors and motivational speakers in various industries. But at the core, I was spending most of my time coaching young children. I helped organize and facilitate sports programs for thousands of summer campers that came to MLSE Launchpad. It was special to me because I helped young kids innovate new ideas, learn from me, and at the end of the day, I could see them improve. I was given a chance to be a role model and positively inspire the young people that I coach.
Reflecting from my first day at MLSE LaunchPad to date, from volunteering to playing in the leagues to being a summer employee, to working as a coach, to be a part of the Youth Advisory Council, I have grown so much. I have learned some valuable lessons and skills that have changed my life trajectory. I have picked up managerial skills, which include leading people, the art of communicating, and project management.
I learned how much is out there, and even if you feel like you are the smallest person in the room, you can do whatever you set your mind to if you keep trying to be your best, and keep trying to beat your best. There was a quote I penned down from one of our guest speakers that inspired me. It represents my journey at MLSE LaunchPad. He said, "it takes 10 years to go from nowhere to somewhere". Right now, I am on my journey, and for me, MLSE LaunchPad has been an important part of that 10-year journey.
I am proud of my accomplishments, not the least being part of the 'Class of 2020 Graduates' of Monarch Park Collegiate. I look expectantly to the next stage of my life- to follow my passion of being an architect. I look forward to what comes in this next chapter of my life.
I will close with this quote from late Nelson Mandela of Africa which reads,
"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, and it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination".
I am Oweme - thank you for letting me share my story.