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Who would have known that I would become so affiliated with Tropicana Community Services?

It all started after the passing my beloved husband fourteen years ago. Being newly widowed and a single parent contributed to my difficulty accessing resources at that time. I required subsidized day-care for my two young children as I worked full-time to maintain an adequate income to be able to provide for them. I was connected to Children of Tomorrow Day-Care, which was quite convenient for me as the day-care was located in the same building as my children’s school. I happened to form strong friendships with several of the day-care staff and was invited to attend the Tropicana Community Services Christmas party. I had thoroughly enjoyed the party not knowing that I would one day work with these individuals.

At that time when my children were very young, I was in the computer programming industry and as my children got older, I decided that I wanted to change my career path to Social Work. I wanted to do something with my life that was more meaningful and rewarding. The kind of work I wanted to perform, the kind of work that would make me proud. I decided to go back to school as a full-time student to get my Bachelor’s degree with much feeling of fear and anxiety. I wanted to pursue that passion and dream of becoming a Social Worker, which I would say was my most substantial accomplishment.

During my 2nd year in university, I was referred by a friend to apply for the Summer Jobs for Youth program (SJFY) in 2006 for Tropicana. I was hired as a Youth Facilitator but at first, I was quite hesitant if I should take that position as I already had two youth to parent at home. As a single mother, it was not easy. Despite that feeling, that was one of the most gratifying experiences that I have ever had. Youth have so much potential that we do not realize and by taking this position, it opened up my eyes to what these youth could offer society and what they could achieve and overcome considering their life circumstances. During the time that I was employed, one of my participants was placed at the Children of Tomorrow Day-Care and to my surprise I discovered that this exact same day-care was the day-care that I had registered my children in all those years ago which happened to be under Tropicana Community Services.

During that same year, my daughter Shauntelle was chosen as one of the participants in the SJFY program and even performed, sang, and represented all the youth at the SJFY events.

The following two years, I continued to work for SJFY but now as a Site Supervisor. During the last year, my son Jonathan was also chosen as one of the participants in the SJFY program. In addition to that year, I was employed at Tropicana while completing my thesis for the Master’s of Social Work degree. After I had obtained my Master’s degree with Honours, I applied to Tropicana for a full-time position as a Youth Support Worker/ Counsellor, and was ultimately hired.

Because of my hard work and dedication I submitted my proposal and it was accepted. My thesis was chosen to be presented at the CASWE conference in Montreal on May, 31, 2010. The purpose of my research was to explore how income status affects the process of grieving. For families facing financial hardships, the effects of a loved one passing away can be devastating. An attempt was made to identify the strengths that helped these individuals cope with their grief. The thesis highlighted the need for more affordable resources, such as counselling, to support individuals of lower income status.

My personal goals are to continue to gain more in-depth knowledge and skills needed to work with social service agencies and institutions that deal with individuals, families, groups, and communities. Most importantly, to support social justice through social change and that is what Tropicana has given me. All in all, Tropicana has given me many opportunities to flourish in my career and I will be forever grateful.