When Marcia Brown first launched the Ladies on the Rise mentorship program in 2011, she was paying strictly out-of-pocket for all of the program’s costs and materials – including weekly meals for the program’s 15 teen participants.
Fast forward three years, and programming under Brown’s umbrella Trust 15 Youth Community Support Organization – the not-for-profit organization providing inner-city youth with programs that facilitate positive behaviour, creative expression and cooperative working skills, for which Brown serves as both founder and executive director – has expanded to encompass three different programs that serve a full 120 young people from the north Etobicoke community.
Those programs include: the original Ladies on the Rise program, its brother program Men of Distinction, and, most recently, Girls on the Rise, a literacy program for preteen girls based on the American Girl line of multicultural historical dolls and book series that just launched this past school year.
With so many young, hungry minds (not to mention mouths) to feed, Brown – an education assistant with the Toronto District School Board – said she can no longer afford to fund it all by herself.
“It’s just grown to point where I can’t do that anymore,” she laughed. “I started with 15 girls – and look where we are now. If anybody back then had told me it’d get this big, I wouldn’t have believed them. It’s amazing.”
To help continue growing her vision and expanding her Trust 15 programming, Brown initiated the Student Success Fundraiser last April, which raised close to $10,000 in its inaugural year – funds that were divided equally between the Ladies on the Rise and Men of Distinction programs.
With the addition of the Girls on the Rise program – and the added expense of buying each participant an American Girl doll of her own – this year, Brown said she’s hoping this year’s Second Annual Student Success Fundraiser will be twice as successful, raising upward of $20,000.
“We want to raise this money so there will be enough for me to do a lot more with these kids. I want to make sure there’s enough money to feed the kids, because I have three programs now. And I want to make sure that if any of the kids need anything – clothes or anything else at all – that there’s money there so that I can say, ‘you know what? Here you go.’ That’s very important to me,” Brown said.
“Also, I’m hoping that for some of the kids who have been with me all the way to Grade 12, that I can give out some mini-scholarships. It might not be a lot, but I want to start doing that for the ones who have done well in school.”
To help Brown achieve those goals, all are invited to attend her upcoming Student Success Fundraiser, which will be held Saturday, April 5 at 5 p.m. at Woodbine Banquet and Convention Hall, 30 Vice Regent Blvd.
In addition to dinner, a silent auction, raffle prizes and music by DJ FlynnTastic from CHRY 105.5 FM from 8 to 10 p.m., the event features celebrity emcees Marci Ien, co-host of Canada AM, and Tracy Moore, host of Cityline, plus keynote speaker Michael “Pinball” Clemons – all of whom are familiar with Brown’s young charges, having served as guest mentors for the Ladies on the Rise and Men of Distinction programs.
“All three of them have been involved in the program, so the kids know them very well and feel comfortable around them, which is important,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t put anybody up there (at the fundraiser) who didn’t know the kids.”
Once the celebrities have left the stage, Brown said it will then be time for her young program participants themselves to shine in the spotlight – showcasing their singing, spoken word and dance talents.
“We’re trying to show people the talents of all these kids, because it’s amazing how much talent they have,” Brown said of her primary goal with the Trust 15 programs.
“At the end of it all, I want my young people to have a voice and to have the confidence to share it. My hope is that they will be able to take what they’ve learned from my program and what our mentors have taught them, and go out in the world and have the confidence they deserve. What we’re trying to do is...show them how to present themselves as a Man of Distinction or as a Lady on the Rise or a Girl on the Rise, so that when they leave the program, they have the confidence to go out there and do anything they set their mind to, because they’re all capable of so much.”
Tickets to Trust 15’s Second Annual Student Success Fundraiser are $70 each (tax receipts available). For ticket sales, sponsorship opportunities or to donate, go to www.trust15.com or call Brown at 416-427-5398.