Something to Prove: Samuel Boakye’s Story – Part 2

Continued from last month’s edition of the Downsview Advocate, we conclude the story of Samuel Boakye’s transition from a disinterested, tough-guy student into a caring and ambitious adult.

When half a year of boarding school in Ghana saw no strong improvement in Samuel’s attitude or grades, he was sent to live at the large house shared by his two uncles and their families.  His father did not enroll him in school, so Samuel spent his time helping out with household chores, socializing with his family, and exploring Ghana.

During his long walks through the city and countryside, Samuel began to really think about his future, and what sort of man he would become.  It was at this time, that Samuel overheard a conversation between his father and his uncles.  His father had brought Samuel’s report card from boarding school and the three were discussing the next steps of Samuel’s education.  Samuel’s father was exasperated with his son, but what was most painful to hear was that his father had simply accepted that his son would not amount to anything.  Even worse, he seemed to find humour in it.

Throughout his youth, Samuel always found it important to be popular and respected by his peers.  Why didn’t the opinion of his family matter?  But that day it finally did, and it hit him like a sledge hammer.

He did not confront them, but rather he made a silent promise to himself that when he was sent once again to school, that he would prove them all wrong and succeed.  In his own words, he was finally going to “try”.

While that conversation between his father and uncles helped awaken a desire to show the world that he could succeed in school, it was another event altogether that made him appreciate the opportunities of his own life.

One evening, Samuel decided to take a bottle of Irish Cream from his uncle’s liquor cabinet without asking for permission, and shared it with a friend.  The next day, Samuel overheard his uncle looking for the bottle to serve to guests that had visited the home, but Samuel remained silent on the matter.

The very next morning, Samuel was awoken by his uncle who in turn accused him of stealing the bottle and threatened to tell the whole family.  Not wanting that embarrassment, Samuel confessed.

As punishment, Samuel was taken to the lumber yards of his uncle’s business and put to work for the next two weeks without pay or special treatment.  So there he worked, day after day in the sweltering summer heat, while sleeping away the nights in a small hotel room full of insects.

“Working there, I realized the blessings of my own life.  Of course, I knew what I had before but it never really dawned on me.” Samuel reflected. “The guys there worked hard labour for $50 a month and actually appreciated the opportunity to work to feed their families.”

Samuel eventually returned to Canada as a new person.  He fulfilled his promise and is now completing his studies at the University of Toronto.  He continues to work in the field of youth mentorship, turning the lessons he learned in his youth into a great strength to push young people to succeed.

Samuel’s story proves that it is easy for us, as adults, to forget the pressures youth face.  It can even be easier to look at a younger person in the midst of their struggles and confusion, and to simply write them off as future fallen adults.

“I know what it means to be in the dark and to be naive and to not know what are you doing until the point of near self-destruction.” says Samuel, “It is so sad to see a young person die because they had no chance to change.”

Community Spotlight: Against All Odds (part 1)

Samuel Boakye was on a downward trajectory in his middle and early high school years.  Today, he attends the University of Toronto and runs a non-profit program that exposes marginalized youth to experiences in the field of construction.

Samuel moved into local community housing at age 10, his mother struggling to raise three children after her husband had left her some years ago.

“At my old school, I was a popular, energetic and playful kid.” says Samuel, “When I moved, it was like I dropped rank and had to ascend again.  There were many terms like ‘teacher’s pet’ that would deter you from taking a positive role and become a target of bullying.”

Samuel reflected on his feelings of isolation and being bullied when he first arrived.  His priority in school was his social status and he reached the top of that food chain as a tough kid with little interest in his studies.

The transition to high school meant starting from the bottom once more.  Samuel had few thoughts of the future and his focus was on fun and the respect of his peers.  It was a time of frequent fights, trips to the principal’s office and school suspensions.

Samuel speaks of his mother’s feelings about him during those years, “I think she had accepted I would never be the smart kid at school.  At best, she hoped I would make it through school and find any job I could.”  By grade 10, Samuel’s mother came to believe that her son’s only chance of redemption might lie elsewhere; she made the hard decision to send her son to live with his father in Ghana.

At the time, Samuel was extremely resentful of her plan to send him to his father.  He plotted mischief he would unleash upon his arrival but when he faced his father once more in the flesh, all his plans melted away.  “The moment I saw him again it was back to the drill sergeant and cadet.” says Samuel with a grin.

Samuel’s father was a successful businessman back in Ghana, managing and owning over a dozen pharmacies.  His father demanded discipline of his son but had no time to administer it so he sent Samuel to a boarding school where he would live on campus and under strict rules and supervision. At this new school, Samuel observed something that was incredibly surprising: some of the coolest and toughest kids also were the most academically involved.  This was in stark contrast to the youth culture he was used to, which he described as idolizing mediocrity and apathy towards studies.

Despite this realization, Samuel continued feeling resentment and disinterest in his studies.  Half a year passed and Samuel’s grades continued to be poor, so his exasperated father took him out of school and sent him to live with his two uncles.  It was during this time with his uncles that two defining moments happened in Samuel’s life, setting him on a path of reflection and ultimately redemption…

to be continued next month

Provincial Liberals Selling Off Hydro One Despite Public Opposition

Despite 80% of Ontarians being against the sale of Hydro One, the provincial Liberal government is moving ahead with its selloff to private investors.
The independent Provincial Financial Accountability Office has even warned about the loss of provincial revenue that would result from the sale. The provincial ombudsman and other watchdogs have also warned against the secretive manner of the sale.
Shortly after the provincial election, the Liberal government surprised the public by selling off 60% of Hydro One. To date, 30% has been sold meaning the public still currently owns the majority of shares.

The sale has been a hotly debated topic at Queen’s Park. This October, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath moved a motion to end any further sale of this important public asset. “We need to make crucial changes to stop the rising cost of hydro and stop the privatization that’s driving those cost increases,” said Horwath.

“The priority of our hydro system shouldn’t be generating big profits for investors. It should be to provide affordable electricity that keeps people’s bills as low as possible.”
The motion did not pass due to the opposition of Liberal and Conservative MPPs.

Downsview residents continue to see rising hydro bills, a cost many simply cannot afford. The rising costs particularly affect properties with electrical heating for the colder months.
Bibi Ali, a local Condominium Board President, represents one such property where some residents face $1000 bills during the winters. She was surprised to hear about the hydro sell-off when it started and fears that privatization will only make the situation worse.”It’s not fair that our hydro bills are so high,” said Bibi. “The government should have asked people instead of just going ahead and selling things off.”

A number of organizations opposed to the selloff of Hydro One, have put together a website (www.keephydropublic.ca) with a lot of great information and opportunities to take a stand against the sale.

If the government continues in its sell-off plan, the public will lose the majority say on the future of hydro. The provincial Liberal government should listen to the will of the public and stop any further sale before they make a bad situation only worse.