Sixteen year old Nidhi Patel’s mother, Alka, and sister, Meera, were becoming increasingly concerned about the once bubbly, now depressed, Nidhi.
“I was experiencing some personal problems; stressing out about school work and issues with friends,” says Nidhi. On top of that, she had also become the target of some bullies at school and was anxious about how to navigate the situation. “My mom and Meera realized how unhappy I was, even though I tried very hard to keep it from them. I didn’t want to share too much; I didn’t want to worry them,” says Nidhi.
Concerned for her little sister’s mental and emotional well-being, Meera felt that Nidhi would benefit from positive connections outside of the family. She recalled seeing a flyer from Yorktown Family Services for programs for youth offered at the West Toronto Youth hub, located not far from where the Patel’s lived. Together, Meera and Alka persuaded Nidhi to check out Yorktown’s programs. “At first, I wasn’t into it. I wasn’t ready for something new. My mom promised that if I went once and wasn’t interested, I wouldn’t have to go back.” Nidhi smiles remembering back to her first visit to the West Toronto Youth Hub, just over a year ago. “It’s kind of funny that I was apprehensive because as soon as I walked in, I had a good feeling. Everyone was really friendly and I felt welcomed and comfortable. I became curious.”
During her first visit, Nidhi met with the Connect 4 coordinator, a group mentorship program for youth ages 12-25 that runs once a week at the West Toronto Youth Hub. This was the first program that Nidhi joined and it helped get her mind off the things that were stressing her. “It is a very social environment and I met so many new people. It’s a drop-in program so you come whenever you want. It’s a casual and very positive space,” says Nidhi. Activities include ice-breakers, watching movies and cooking together at the Hub kitchen. There are guest speakers who share information on healthy relationships and how to get a job. They play interactive games that help to develop communication, teamwork and leadership skills.
Nidhi also joined the Youth Mentorship Boot Camp, a series of workshops for youth who were interested in being matched with a mentor. The Boot Camp explained how the program is set up, what to expect, and how to build a relationship with a mentor. The Leadership portion of Bootcamp inspired Nidhi and other youth to plan a program for LGBTQ2S+ youth, Rainbow West, to be launched in April of 2019. The youth took the lead to create this brand new program to respond to a need in the community.
Nidhi initially went for that first visit to the West Toronto Youth Hub to make her mom happy. Now she says that going to the West Toronto Youth Hub “brings her mood up”.
“I like the way it changes my mood just by coming here; and I see it in other youth. It goes deeper than just while we are here because if you have a tough day, you know that Yorktown is there; just hang in till you’re back at Yorktown. When I first started, I was in a really bad place, but now, I just love coming. I know that I have grown and am more mature than when I first came to Yorktown. I was invited to participate in program planning and to lend a hand and I became more confident. I now participate in things outside of Yorktown; at home, at school, or other places. My mom has seen a change in me. I am more involved in the community and with other youth – together, we created a program for other youth! I feel like I know how to be a leader. I am proud of myself and how I have changed over the year, since going to Yorktown,” says Nidhi.
After that first visit to the West Toronto Youth Hub, Nidhi continued to attend Yorktown programs almost weekly, and sometimes more than once a week.
According to Nidhi, “Every community needs a Yorktown!”