Healthy CommunitiesY StoriesYMCA Newcomer ProgramsYMCA Youth Programs

Rising to the challenge: How a young newcomer unlocked his leadership potential

23 October 2019 - by Sarah Cowan
Moses is a bright Grade 12 student whose favourite subject is biology, and he plans to study life sciences in university so he can pursue his dream of becoming a cardiologist.

He’s also a newcomer who, upon arriving in Canada in 2016, wanted to fit in, feel accepted, and, eventually, help support his family financially.

3 years ago, Moses arrived from Sri Lanka, where he’d spent most of his life after being born in Pakistan. The YMCA’s Newcomer Youth Leadership Development (NYLD) Program was the perfect place for him to make new connections, settle into Canadian culture, and discover his passion for leadership. Little did he know, NYLD would also open doors to internships, skills workshops, and job placements that have given him a strong start on his career.

Making connections 

Moses joined NYLD in February 2017. He says it was great to talk to other teens in the same boat as him and share new experiences together through fun excursions around the city.
“It was reassuring to get to know new people from different backgrounds, hear their stories, and just get close to them and make new friends,” Moses says.

Just 9 months later, he was mentoring other newcomer youth through NYLD. Sharla — who was recognized for her outstanding leadership skills earlier this year by being awarded the Ted Rogers Scholarship Fund — had been impressed by his dedication to the program. She inspired Moses to follow in her footsteps and become an NYLD mentor himself.

Gaining leadership skills

Today, with two years of experience under his belt, Moses still loves volunteering as an NYLD mentor. He says it’s rewarding to help young newcomers who are in the same position he was two years ago.

Moses standing in front of YMCA logo
“I learn a lot of things when I volunteer here,” says Moses. “Plus, I get to know new people and make new friends.”

His favourite part of the program is the annual mentors’ retreat at YMCA Cedar Glen Outdoor Centre.

“It’s something I think every mentor looks forward to, because of how we all meet and get close to each other, even though we’re from different locations,” explains Moses.

Graduating from a mentor to an intern

All of his hard work as a volunteer quickly paid off. Moses knew he needed to start making money to support his family — and once again, he turned to NYLD for support. He was soon connected with the Newcomer Youth Internship (NYI): a paid internship opportunity for alumni of NYLD to gain work experience and develop their skills.

As an intern, Moses received training from full-time YMCA staff so he could create and facilitate workshop training sessions for youth. He says the experience pushed him out of his comfort zone and taught him how to be more independent.

Getting job-ready

After completing his internship, Moses gained further work experience through the Youth Job Connection Program (YJC). He got to take part in pre-employment skills workshops, followed by a job placement designed to help youth get employment ready.

Moses says YJC taught him valuable skills like how to budget his money and search for a job.

Today, he still volunteers as a mentor at Etobicoke YMCA Employment and Immigrant Services.
“It has made me the person I am today and it’s a second home to me,” says Moses.

Are you a young newcomer like Moses? Join the NYLD Program today to meet new people, learn new skills, and get involved in your community!

The Newcomer Youth Internship (NYI) program was piloted with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and continues thanks to the Clark Catalyst Fund for Newcomers and Refugees.


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.