300 teenage boys 'stand up' and find inspiration at TDSB conference

More than 300 teenage boys from across Toronto gathered Thursday to take part in the annual Stand Up: Redefining the Colour of Success conference.

Annual conference, now in its eighth year, brings together students and working professionals

Grade 7 and 8 boys took part in workshops led by men of colour in various fields such as business, medicine, law and sports. (CBC/Martin Trainor)

More than 300 teenage boys from across Toronto came together Thursday afternoon to take part in the annual Stand Up: Redefining the Colour of Success conference.

CBC Toronto anchor Dwight Drummond has been hosting the annual event since its inception eight years ago.

Dwight Drummond, CBC Toronto anchor, has been hosting the annual Stand Up conference since 2010. (CBC/Martin Trainor)

Boys in seventh and eighth grade take part in workshops focusing on a range of fields, from business to medicine, sports to law. Workshops are led by men of colour, who share their personal stories and strategies for overcoming barriers. 

Aidan, one of the attending students, said he wanted to see how he could "have a better future" from hearing other people's experiences.

Aidan is one of more than 300 young boys who participated in Thursday's Stand Up conference. (CBC/Martin Trainor)

Lemar, 13, was inspired to write a poem during the conference. He shared it with Drummond:

I wonder why things so small can be so big.

Can to be something also mean to feel nothing.

Is my life worth living over if people are starving and dying over.

And their life has been taken away.

If I die, who will remember me for something I want or could have been.

If I had wings … would they make me go high or solo.

Lemar, one of the conference's participants, was inspired to write a poem after the workshops. (CBC/Martin Trainor)

Ontario Supreme Court Justice Donald McLeod grew up in Regent Park and attended the same school as some of the students who participated in Thursday's event.

"The reason why we all come is because we can identify with these kids," McLeod told Drummond.

Ontario Supreme Court Justice Donald McLeod is co-chair of the Stand Up conference, and is the founding partner of a criminal, administrative and human rights legal firm in Toronto. (CBC/Martin Trainor)

"Being able to see mentors ... gives them a a chance to dream ... to see something they didn't see before, to be able to reach out, talk to us, ask us questions and see us in the same rooms we never saw people in before when we were growing up." 

McLeod says he was raised in the inner city and owes a lot to his parents and family for helping him become the successful man he is today.

The idea is that when we make it out, we go back and make sure that everybody comes out — so that nobody is left behind.- Judge Donald McLeod

"It was rough, it's tough," he recalled. "But as you get that drive, as you're hungry, you start moving up and you start doing the things that you need to do to in order for us to become better citizens.

"The idea is that when we make it out, we go back and make sure that everybody comes out — so that nobody is left behind."

McLeod believes education is the key to success and "if we can get our kids to understand that's what they need, you'd be surprised how much further we'll go.

Professionals from all walks of life shared their personal stories of success and strategies for overcoming barriers. (CBC/Martin Trainor)

"We need to make sure that they understand there's big prizes in finishing school, getting into post-secondary education and taking care of your family."

Stand Up: Redefining the Colour of Success

6 years ago
Duration 3:21
More than 300 teenage boys from across the city came together Thursday afternoon, to take part in the annual "Stand Up: Redefining the Colour of Success" conference.

The annual Young Men Conference was launched by the TDSB in May of 2010. It runs in partnership with 100 Strong, a not-for-profit organization created by a group of African-Canadian men "compelled to make a difference" and "re-write the current status quo to create a new and lasting social commentary 'one young man at a time'."