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.”