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Greater TorontoYMCA Logo
Reaching For The Stars

March 2011

Mrigank Mehta“People like people smiling,” Mrigank Mehta, 14, declares when refl ecting on his fi rst day taking part in Voices. “Canadians are friendly, of course. Smiling is good.” He learned a lot about Canadians that day in the discussion about peace and respect. “I would recommend this program to any newcomer youth if they want to know more about Canadian culture.”

Last year, Mrigank spent his summer as a participant in Voices: the YMCA Newcomer Youth Film Project, where he and his two partners learned how to make a short fi lm inspired by their experiences immigrating and settling in Canada. He took part in several workshops that showed him how to develop an idea into a story, how to use a digital camera and film equipment, how to edit his own footage, and even how to expose and market his work to different audiences.

Throughout the project Mrigank received mentorship from working professionals in Toronto’s fi lm industry and was supported by YMCA Newcomer Youth Specialists who helped him understand the curriculum and engage in activities that allowed him to learn more about himself and his peers. “I wanted to meet new people and make new friends,” adds Mrigank.

His parents learned about Voices when they came to the YMCA for settlement support. They knew it was the right program for him. His family’s move to Canada was a result of the global fi nancial crisis; his home city of Dubai was hit hard. “The economy was getting worse,” says Mrigank. At the time, he was a trained dancer in the styles of Bollywood, street jazz and hip hop, and skilled in locking and popping. He is also an aspiring DJ and music producer, with certifi cates and awards to his name, and he knew relocating meant new opportunities in the entertainment industry.

Looking back on his fi lm journey, he values the support he received. “The instructors were so into it. They had lots of knowledge and they took us to many places,” Mrigank says, referring to trips to the National Film Board and the Power Plant, an art gallery where he learned more about the arts culture in Canada.

The family is now looking forward to the upcoming YMCA Voices Film Festival, where Mrigank’s fi lm, Rough Start, made with two other boys, will premiere before an audience of hundreds. “I’m really very excited about the upcoming festival. I have been counting the days,” he says. The event at the new Bell Lightbox will be hosted by Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, MTV host and producer. Guests from the settlement, education, employment, and arts and government sectors are expected to attend, as well as members of the fi lm festival circuit and various youth groups. For the fi rst time, the general public is also invited — making this year’s festival the largest yet.

The Voices experience has made Mrigank more confi dent to pursue his talent. “Ten years from now, I see myself like a big star,” he says excitedly. “It’s what I’ve always dreamed of.”

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