“Growing up was tough—I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety as a kid. By the time I was a teenager, most days I just wanted to sleep all day rather than face the world. I couldn’t eat, shower or even brush my teeth.
In grade nine, I started attending a United Way-funded tutoring and mentoring program after school, and the support I had there made such a big difference.
During high school, my family struggled with poverty, which made life very hard. After we paid for rent or other necessities, sometimes we couldn’t afford to pay our heating bill, or had no money left over for food.
“If I can inspire one student, then maybe they can inspire 10 more”
Eventually, my family of five became homeless and we had to split up because we couldn’t find a place that could accommodate all of us. I felt so much stress and anxiety; my hair began to fall out. The tutoring program helped me get through it all by being there to support me—no matter what. The staff made sure that we were okay every night and had food to eat. They also advocated for us and helped us look for housing.
I think a big part of this program is that it made people feel welcome. Just knowing that there was support was huge for me. Even after high school, I could go there and talk to the staff about university and they’d help me.