ASAP: Mentoring at David Thompson Secondary School in South Vancouver

Published: December 29, 2012

HARVEY KOONER
VANCOUVER DESI

On Thursday, Dec. 20 I made my way back to my old high school: David Thompson.  Nothing has changed much, a lot of the teachers that taught there during my time are still there.  I have gone in the past to talk to the students in Grades 10-12 about various topics including: post-secondary education options, building their resume and job finding skills.  This time I would be talking to Grade 8’s in Ronda Leung’s class.

It was a great experience. I started out talking to the kids about how I grew up in the same area; went to the elementary school that most of them attended, too. Instantly they were engaged in hearing about a person who had been in their shoes and wanted to know what I pursued in post-secondary education and my career path.  The students were very attentive and asked questions each time I opened up the floor.  I really enjoyed the feedback and amount of participation they gave into the presentation.

It was fantastic hearing about their aspirations in life.  Some students set their goals on being: a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, professional tennis player and even a surgeon.  It was interesting posing challenging questions to this tech forward generation about how they would accomplish their goals and set up a framework for their success.  I found it surprising that some students still believed that high school education would be enough to get by.  When hearing this, I brought up examples of careers and general salaries and how the amount of education one has usually correlates into a higher salary bracket.  When explaining the ratio of amount of years spent in school versus amount of years your spend working in life; it clicked for them.  More education = More income.

Some questions that came up included: How do we do it?  How can we figure out what we want to do?  I talked about informational interviews in person and over the phone, asking questions of their parents and their networks, job shadows and seeking opportunities.  I gave examples of people I know that went into a profession for the wrong reasons.  After they finished their schooling and worked in their field they figured out they did not like what they were doing.  So, they started over and chase what they are passionate about.  This is the beauty of asking questions, doing research and keeping an open mind.

I stressed to the students about being well rounded and the importance of giving back to the community.  One student believed that you needed to work ‘x’ amount of volunteer hours to obtain a first job.  After hearing this, I explained why numerous professionals volunteer with the Association of South Asian Professionals of BC.  I explained that when you give back to an organization, a project or a community selflessly you get back more than you can ever imagine.  I described the several times ASAP has visited the downtown east side in Vancouver to hold hot dog days for the homeless and distribution of blankets for the cold winter months.  They got it.

I shared with the leaders of tomorrow an example from my own life when a friend passed away six years ago.  He was a father of four young sons, a husband, brother, son, best friend to many and the pride of his family.  He passed away in his sleep at the young age of 37.  Victor was involved in many charitable initiatives, but one charity that Victor was really touched by was the BC Children’s Hospital.  A heartwarming story that depicts Victor’s character was when he would every Christmas, buy thousands of dollars of toys and go to Children’s Hospital to donate them to needy children.  When they would ask, “Who are you and where are these toys from, which organization?”  Victor would simply reply, “It doesn’t matter who I am or where I am from, these toys are for the kids and that’s all you need to know.”   It was found out that Victor made trips to the hospital for over a dozen years.  Victor was just being Victor, he didn’t tell anyone what he was up to.  Sitting among the hundreds of mourners at Victor’s funeral there was one thing that was clear:  his giving spirit must live on.  Speech after speech, in one of the most emotional funerals anyone has been to, all resonated the same feelings; it was not fair that Victor left this world.  This inspired me to start a toy drive with his family, which six years later has collected over 11,000 toys for children across the province and internationally.

I explained to the class that it is their choice on how they want to lead their life and one person can make difference.  Giving some perspective, advice and guidance to the youth of today was very rewarding and something I advise others to step up and do.  You can make a difference; you are only limited by your imagination.  For more information on how to become a speaker for ASAP’s mentorship program, please contact Amneet Aulakh.

Harvey Kooner volunteers with the Association of South Asian Professionals.

Amneet Aulakh volunteers with the Association of South Asian Professionals and is a mentorship committee co-chair. She works as a Clinical Pharmacist Specialist. Follow her on Twitter at @mirrordoor.  She can be reached by email at amneet.aulakh@yahoo.com

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