2024 Unity Link Up program opens doors for youth

"We have to provide them the skills, the opportunities, the exposure," says project coordinator Brian Smith. The 2024 Unity Link Up online program is connecting students across Canada with diverse professionals. Anastasia Dextrene reports.

To empower youth and celebrate Black History Month, students from schools across Canada were invited to participate in the 2024 Unity Link Up program. With weekly webinars spearheaded by the Youth Stars Foundation and Montreal-native Brian Smith, the program is described as a journey of inspiration, as students explore new career paths.

“I just started going every Thursday at lunch,” says Harmony Robinson, a grade 9 student at Westmount High School.

“When I originally heard of it, I thought that it was going to be good information to know,” said grade 11 student Sage Harris, also from Westmount High School.

Born out of the pandemic, Smith says one goal was for leaders to spark conversation around anti-racism, financial literacy and unlocking potential.

“We’re always talking about the youth and the youth of the future, but we have to provide them the skills, the opportunities, the exposure. Once you get exposed to things, you’ll see that there might be a strong change in behavior. But if [students] are not offered the opportunities, then there’s so many other distractions,” Smith told CityNews. 

He challenges educational institutions to consider allocating one hour of time toward alternative programming for youth.

“They don’t have to leave the classrooms, they don’t have to go across the city, they don’t have to go across the country,” Smith says.

To date, speakers at the online sessions have included Canada’s first black speaker of the House of Commons Greg Fergus, NHL executive vice-president Kimberly Davis and more.

“I like that it was different Black people telling us that we can do whatever we want to and we could get high jobs and be CEOs of companies,” said Robinson.

Harris adding “after seeing this, my perspective in business has changed […] I knew that people [like me] were up there. It’s more so being able to actually see them in the foreground.”

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