York alumna launches centre to empower youth in Scarborough

Two Black students outside on York's Keele Campus

Back 2 Basickz Youth Support Services, an organization founded by York University alumna Amanda Coombs, recently celebrated the grand opening of its new centre in Scarborough, Ont., building on her work to create a safe haven for marginalized, Black and racialized youth.

Amanda Coombs
Amanda Coombs

The newly opened Back 2 Basickz Scarborough location represents an expansion of the program that began in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood in 2013.

The centre will operate as an extension of the organization’s Black Youth Outreach United program, which employs Black professionals who share similar life experiences with participating youth, enabling them to provide guidance and personal advocacy, along with essential life skills and support systems to help break the cycle of poverty and disengagement.

“We strive to break the cycle of poverty that many of these youth experience by providing them with valuable resources, and the tools to help them excel and overcome the challenges they are experiencing,” says Coombs, who serves as the organization’s executive director.

Back 2 Basickz achieves this through a variety of programs and initiatives that provide academic support, mentorship, employment opportunities and culturally sensitive counselling tailored to the unique needs of its participants.

Its after-school program, for instance, provides a safe space exclusively for Black youth, offering academic support in subjects such as math, English, science and computer technology. Additionally, students can engage in recreational activities aimed at fostering social bonds and building positive relationships.

Furthermore, its employment program aims to empower Black youth and young adults by providing access to meaningful employment opportunities in sectors where they are historically underrepresented. Mentorship and job placement assistance are key components of this initiative.

The centre also provides post-incarceration soft-landing programs, as well as counselling for youth facing mental health challenges or crises. Staffed by Black therapists and case managers, these programs offer a compassionate and holistic approach to mental health care.

“Mentorship is provided by men and women who have walked similar paths and successfully transformed their lives,” Coombs says. “Graduates from the Youth Reset program have the unique opportunity to mentor younger youth, creating a powerful cycle of growth, leadership and positive change.”

The Jan. 30 grand opening event saw more than 50 attendees, including parents, youth from the Scarborough community, representatives from various organizations and government officials. Notable guests included member of provincial parliament David Smith, city councillor Michael Thompson and Shauna-Marie Benn, a fellow York grad who is the office manager for member of Parliament Gary Anandasangaree. Also present was Stachen Frederick, another York alumna, who is executive director of the Frontlines youth charity in Toronto’s west end.

“It’s crucial,” says Coombs, “for Black youth to recognize that with persistence, hard work and the right support, achieving their dreams is entirely within reach.”

Back 2 Basickz is there to show them the way.

For more information, visit back2basickz.com or email Coombs at back2basickz123@gmail.com.