Healthy CommunitiesYMCA Newcomer ProgramsYMCA Youth Programs

NYLD mentors awarded Ted Rogers Scholarship for outstanding community leadership

07 August 2019 - by Sarah Cowan

Two young newcomers who volunteer in YMCA youth leadership programs are being recognized for all their hard work.

Sharla smiling

Sharla Fontinelle

Sharla Fontinelle, 18, and Hera Saedanih Esteban, 19, are the 2019 YMCA of Greater Toronto recipients of the Ted Rogers Scholarship.

Launched in 2017, the scholarship aims to help young leaders across Canada break down barriers and achieve their educational goals.

Sharla and Hera’s work in NYLD

Sharla, who is originally from Casteries, St. Lucia, immigrated to Canada in 2015, while Hera immigrated here from the Philippines in 2017.

Despite being from opposite sides of the globe, both young women found a sense of belonging and community through the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s Newcomer Youth Leadership Development Program (NYLD).

“I can connect with other newcomers who share similar experiences to me,” Sharla explains. “It is great to be a part of a community of friends and watch new members grow within the program.”

Hera smiling with her award

Hera Saedanih Esteban

Hera says:

“Joining NYLD contributed a lot in terms of me adjusting here. It provides a comfortable community that makes me feel at home.”

Discovering community service at the YMCA  

In March 2018, Hera volunteered in the YMCA Community Action Network (YCAN) to step outside her comfort zone, further her leadership skills, and expand her connections. For her group’s community service project, she helped host an event called “Level-Up” to encourage newcomer and low-income youth to invest in their health and wellness.

Hera with YCAN group members holding up sign that says Level Up 

Hera with YCAN "Level Up" volunteers

The event, held in partnership with Teen Nights at the North York YMCA, invited youth ages 13–18 to participate in activities including a self-defence workshop, dance class, and sports games.

How the scholarship will support their dreams 

This year, the Ted Rogers Fund awarded 150 community scholarships of up to $10,000. Recipients are selected from 15 partner organizations across the country, including the YMCA.

With her scholarship’s support, Sharla will be starting an honours bachelor's degree in psychology in September. She wants to become a clinical youth psychologist and start her own non-profit or clinic. Sharla says,

“With this scholarship, the financial burden and stress have been relieved from my shoulders. I can focus solely on my academics and maintaining my grades.” 

Hera’s dream is to design environmentally-friendly houses and buildings. She will be pursuing either civil engineering technology or chemical and physical sciences in school this fall. In the future, she wants to work for an engineering firm and support non-profit organizations that focus on youth and/or the environment. The scholarship makes a big difference financially, she says, but it’s also boosted her confidence to know that her volunteer efforts are recognized.

Joining NYLD can help you develop a stronger sense of community, set you up for future success, and serve as a springboard for amazing opportunities. Check out the list of NYLD locations and contact a centre near you to learn how you can join! 


Visit to find out more about our programs, services and charitable impact.


See the many ways to give to the Y and help build a brighter future.


Find child care programs that help children and families shine.


Stay healthy, active and connected at our health and fitness centres.


Explore camps and outdoor centres for fun, adventure, leadership, skills-building and more.


Get the job you want and brighten your career with help from Employment Services.


Settle in and light up your new life in the GTA with support from Immigrant Services.


Make new friends, hone new skills and find counselling at our Youth Programs.


Give back and shine on with rewarding YMCA Volunteer Opportunities.


Find out about our green initiatives and what we're doing to build resilience to climate change.


Light up learning at  YMCA Academy, a middle and high school for those who learn differently.