Marcia Brown grew up believing she wasn't good enough.
Growing up in the West End of Toronto, she had a hard time feeling self-confident, and found herself dreading certain situations, such as having to speak in front of a crowd of people.
As she got older, she learned that she wasn't alone, and that many young people struggle with similar feelings of inadequacy. Eventually, she wound up working for the Toronto District School Board as an educational assistant, where she witnessed firsthand how many kids in the community didn't seem to be motivated or express feelings of hope about their futures.
That was when she knew she needed to do something to help kids feel more confident about their futures, and to truly believe anything is possible.
It was those experiences that led Brown in 2011 to found the Trust 15 Youth Community Support Organization—a group formed to help hundreds of young adult learners learn leadership skills and build self-confidence. She named the group after the 15 young girls who showed up to the very first meeting she ever held.
“I didn't even have a proper name for the program at the time, but I can still remember how powerful the moment was when those first 15 girls walked into my life," she said.
“Then, more kids started to come."
Over time, the support group created new programs and Brown was able to help more young people. Almost a decade later, Brown now runs five popular programs for children and young adults aged 7-18 in the Toronto area, teaching life skills that range from getting a job in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) to learning how to tie a tie, cook a healthy meal, or navigate the subway system.
By organizing high tea with Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and other events with prominent guest speakers, Brown aims to provide her kids with opportunities to gain vital relationship skills and life experiences to help bridge the connection between education, community and mentorship.
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in North America, however, Brown faced a new challenge that prevented her from delivering programming online.
“Technology and literacy are big gaps in the communities we serve," said Brown. “We often assume most kids have computers, but the reality is that many don't, and those who don't can't go to the library right now."
To say thank you for being an essential part of what moves her community forward and to help close the technology gap for those students in her community who lack access to a computer, TD decided to show its appreciation in a special way. As part of the 2020 TD Thanks You campaign, aimed at thanking and rewarding those TD customers and colleagues who have demonstrated courage and resilience in the face of COVID-19 by helping their communities during the pandemic, Brown recently received more than 50 laptops and a $10,000 donation from TD to help her to deliver her programs online and increase her mentorship opportunities.
With the laptop donation, Brown then hand-delivered them to the kids in her community who needed them the most.
“The look on their faces was priceless," she said. "I got phone calls from parents crying, saying they couldn't afford to buy a new laptop, and that this gift brought so much joy into their home."
"I just want them to have the tools to continue their education. When these kids see me as an Executive Director in a community where it's very difficult for a Black woman to have this opportunity, they see a Black woman who made it," said Brown.
“I say to them, 'Be proud of who you are. You're going to be even more than an Executive Director. You're going to be a CEO one day.'"
Be sure to follow #TDThanksYou on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to learn more about the many inspiring heroes being recognized by this year's TD Thanks You campaign and the difference they have made.