Building His Future: Joel’s Alumni Story

When Joel was just five years old, he entered the BLAST after-school program offered by Moorelands Kids. For him, this was a safe place where he could spend time after school while his parents were at work. But as Joel grew older, his journey with Moorelands Kids continued—from BLAST to middle-school and high-school programs, and then to working as program staff and encouraging other kids along their journey. Now, at 21 years old, Joel reflects on the lasting impact that Moorelands has had on his life. 

A Head Start

Growing up, Joel was often told that he was shy. “I lacked confidence, and I had difficulty interacting with others,” he says. But when he entered BLAST in Grade 1, it gave him an outlet for expressing himself. It was a place where he could make friends, learn more about himself and how to interact with other kids his age.

Joel participated in BLAST until he finished Grade 5, and then he continued in Moorelands’ LED for middle-school aged kids, and then VITAL for high-school youth. “By middle school, I really involved myself with Moorelands and I was eager to go back,” says Joel. “Now looking back, I see the leadership skills that I gained in the programs. It gave me the confidence to seek out opportunities to lead and to inspire others to lead.” 

Apart from the valuable leadership skills and the personal development that occurs in our after-school programs, Moorelands’ programming offers kids experiences that can spark lifelong interests and passions.

Joel (front row, centre) during a leadership retreat at Moorelands Camp when he was in Grade 9.

For Joel, one of his favourite memories at BLAST were the various baking activities and recipes that he learned. Moorelands gave him a place to practice his baking skills—a passion that he still enjoys today. “It really inspired my hobby,” says Joel. “At BLAST, I fell in love with baking. Now whenever I bake, I think back on the recipes we learned, working together and having fun with my friends at the time.”

Becoming a Leader

In Grade 11, more than 10 years after he first began at Moorelands, Joel had a conversation with Mike, the VITAL program coordinator at the time, in the school cafeteria. Mike had known Joel for many years and had watched him grow through each program he attended. He had seen Joel using the leadership skills he learned at Moorelands, and encouraged him to apply for a program leader position. 

“It was a full-circle thing,” he says. “I started in the program in 2006, and became a staff member by the time I graduated.”

Looking back, Joel acknowledges that Moorelands was the place where he truly discovered himself and his interests. It helped him identify the types of teams and environments he thrives in, guiding his choices throughout his university life and career. Now, Joel has recently graduated from the commerce program at Queens University and will begin his career as an Insurance Associate in September. 

As Joel progressed through high school and embarked on his journey to university, he realized how invaluable the skills he acquired through Moorelands were for his personal and professional growth. It gave him the confidence to approach and collaborate with others, and taught him about working with teams, delegating tasks, being an active listener and team player, and when necessary, taking leadership over a team himself. 

Joel (right) as a program leader at BLAST. “It was a full-circle thing,” says Joel. “I started in the program in 2006, and became a staff member by the time I graduated.”

A Strong Future

When asked what advice he would give to his younger self, Joel’s answer was simple: be yourself. “If there is one place to know your interests and know who you are, it would be Moorelands. For me, I discovered what I look forward to in life,” he says. 

For kids who are currently attending Moorelands Kids’ programs, Joel encourages them to see Moorelands as a valuable tool for the future—and a place to have fun and make friends. 

“I think that Moorelands does a really good job of making sure that a child’s journey, right from when they start elementary school to when they finish secondary school, is well thought-out and is intentional in its programming. Regardless of your age, there is always something that Moorelands can provide for you.”

Do you have your own Moorelands story to share? Join our Alumni network!

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