For a boy who fled political unrest in Nigeria with his mother and siblings only to grow up amid poverty and gun violence in Toronto’s Jamestown neighbourhood, Lekan Olawoye comes by his community activism honestly.
He has been a respected youth leader in the city’s Rexdale and Weston-Mount Dennis communities, a former chair of the Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities and a candidate for city council in the 2014 election.
Now Olawoye is director of Studio Y, a provincially-funded youth fellowship program at MaRS. And he is organizing a gathering of the country’s brightest young leaders and innovators who will spend the next two days with business, non-profit and academic mentors to draft a national youth strategy to fuel Canada’s social and economic future.
“We have a national system to develop hockey players in this country,” he says. “We need that same level of intentionality to develop young leaders and innovators in Canada.”
With a new government in Ottawa that arguably owes its electoral success to young voters and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to take on the role of minister of youth, the timing couldn’t be better, says Olawoye, 31, a father with three children ages 9, 4 and 2.
This article originally appeared in Toronto Star.