#TorontoIsFailingMe: I want to teach kids that this neighbourhood isn’t a curse

#TorontoIsFailingMe: I want to teach kids that this neighbourhood isn’t a curse

Toronto’s inner suburbs have become shorthand for crumbling postwar apartment blocks, underfunded schools or gang warfare. They’re among the neighbourhoods with the lowest incomes in the city, the longest trek to a TTC stop, and the highest concentration of immigrants and visible minorities. This month, we’re sharing stories from Torontonians who live in the inner suburbs, told in their own words. Some are shocking, some tragic, some hopeful. Together, they convey an urgent truth: Toronto is failing too many of its citizens. Have a story of your own? Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #TorontoIsFailingMe to tell us.
#TorontoIsFailingMe: I want to teach kids that this neighbourhood isn't a curse Abdul Nur in his neighbourhood. Click to see photos from his day volunteering at Westview Centennial Secondary School. (Image: Eamon Mac Mahon)
 

Abdul Nur, 19
Jane and Finch

I grew up in a five-bedroom townhouse in the ­Edgeley Village community housing complex. My whole life I had neighbours and friends who looked out for me. I have seven ­brothers and sisters, five older than me and two younger. My dad was a veterinarian in Somalia, but he now works in a shipping department. My mom keeps me on the right path.

When I was 16, I hung around with guys who would just roam the streets; we were like a flock of sheep, all following each other. Then one day in 2012, two of my friends got arrested on robbery charges. Police ransacked the community centre, taking them out in handcuffs, shoving them inside cruisers. And I’m watching this thinking, “Yo, these are the people I’m running around with.” I realized that would be me soon, getting carted away. I stopped hanging around with them after that.

Instead, I spent my time volunteering with a community group, Success Beyond Limits. Some of my older siblings had been involved in the program, which uses youth leaders to teach other kids about education and life goals. I worked with them as a peer mentor over four years. Today I teach a spoken word workshop once a week, and we’re taking a group from the community to perform at the Parapan Games this summer.

I graduated high school in 2013 but returned for another semester to improve my grades. I’m now in my first year at York—it’s a 10-minute walk from our house. I’m studying business management but thinking of switching to poli-sci. My mom always wanted me to be a doctor, but I want to be a teacher so that I can go back and teach in the community. I want to have a hand in how young people at Jane and Finch will grow up. They don’t have enough role models. If you’re a teacher, you’re going to be with them through some of the crucial points in their lives; you can have a huge influence.
—as told to Lauren McKeon