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Energized By Hope

By Chris Penrose

The barrage of violent incidents involving Toronto’s youth coming across our popular media outlets is constant. Reactions across the board differ. Some call for more police, some call for more program funding. Some people are scared, some are angry, some desperately desire change.

Though the variations on what the real solutions are is cause for debate, the complexity of this conversation is matched by the amount of directions that fingers are aimed pointing blame.

Politicians, teachers, parents, media, police, economics, and racism only begin to cover the table of contents of this book in progress. One common entity looked to for solutions and implicated in the blame is the church; in the face of so much death, despair and violence, there is the argument that not enough is being done by this social pillar that exists to serve people in finding ‘life and life more abundantly.’

While there are many organizations that are stepping up to fill the void that is being felt, one encouraging story comes out of the Living Hope Community Church & The HopeWorks Connection, whose motto is ‘Putting hope to work in our community & the world.’

Of the programs that this church offers is one known as TC3 – The Toronto Children’s Concert Choir & Performing Arts Company. Founded through the non-profit charity arm of the church called The HopeWorks Connection, Reverend Denise Gillard led the launch of TC3 in order to, “use the performing arts to empower the at-risk youth of our city.”†

Rev. Gillard describes the humble beginnings of, “five bucks, eleven kids and a small group of family members willing to give their talent, time and energy to the cause”, to a performing arts company that boasts over sixty-five core youth, six part-time artistic staff, and a faithful band of volunteers who do everything from tutor to cook lunch.†

In light in this great progress, Reverend Gillard comments on the constant challenges they face: “We have the vision, we have the talent, what we need are the resources to sustain and develop the program to reach more at-risk youth.”

Despite the obstacles , however, it is the success stories that propels them forward.

“I have seen it empower the youth themselves to become change agents”, comments Reverend Gillard. Citing some examples, she expands recalling, “One of the most fulfilling moments for me was when one of our TC3 grads, recently completing her first degree at U of T announced she was moving to the Caribbean to start a Not-for-profit to help young girls.† That seed was planted through TC3.† And recently, another Grad was awarded her first grant to start a program she designed which will use urban art forms to give youth who feel voiceless and displaced an outlet from which to be heard.† I look forward to all of the futures of the youth…they are true assets to the world.”

The formula of TC3’s success is simple: “use the performing arts to help youth develop their talents and realize their potential by linking creativity in the arts with empowerment.”

The approach is based on the belief that the generations of youth that seem to be facing such intense obstacles, simply need the opportunity to be empowered to alter their circumstances. While this point seems obvious, their approach is coupled with an awareness of the systemic barriers and challenges that many Black youth throughout the GTA and many other urban centres face, and the consequences of succumbing to those hurdles.

Performers in TC3 are found through auditions youth from across the G.T.A. The range of genres reach from Jazz Orchestra, West African dance and drum, contemporary dance forms including blends of Modern dance, Hip Hop, Spirituals, and Step dance.†

Not only about performance, this element is complimented by retreats, social skills training, conferences, stage presence skills building, specialized camps, as well as international and national appearances and concert tours.

Mentorship and academic support are other key factors is this program, which supports and develops youth participants in a holistic manner.

While much of what TC3 is about is experienced by participants, they will be presenting a showcase titled “OUR MESSAGE:† A Celebration of Gospel Music, Inspirational Song & Dance”. In addition to the performances of the youth involved in the program, the event will also feature a guest performance from Gary Beals of Canadian Idol fame.

The event will take place on Saturday, June 7th at 7 pm at the George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre For The Arts, 5040 Yonge Street.†

Admission for Adults is $35.00, $25.00, $15.00; Seniors/Student - $20.00; $15.00; Children - $15.00. Tickets can be purchased through ticketmaster or at the Toronto Centre for the Arts Box Office.†

For more information contact:† The HopeWorks Connection TC3 line 416-751-9970 or email info@tc3.ca.†

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