Shcakia White and her siblings have been involved with Batshaw Youth and Family Centres for as long as she can remember. Born into the foster system, Shcakia and her siblings lived with numerous foster families throughout Ontario. She remembers her upbringing bittersweetly. There were good times with incredibly loving foster families, but there were also more trying times. She’s seen the good and the bad of the foster care system, she says. With every new family, there’d be the worry of whether things were going to work, and there’d often be adjustments. Sometimes these adjustments could feel like too much to handle, especially for her young siblings.

With the tireless assistance of Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, though, things were never as bad as they could have been. Batshaw Youth and Family Centres made sure Shcakia had the support she needed to thrive. They and her caseworker kept her busy through her youth by helping her find high school jobs and suitable, positive activities. It was through Batshaw Youth and Family Centres that she became involved with Montreal’s Black Theatre workshop, even.

After high school, Shcakia found herself working a variety of jobs while juggling the many responsibilities of adulthood, like utility bills, and rent payments. Even young people with more conventional backgrounds have difficulty keeping afloat through early adulthood, but Shcakia thrived. She credits her tenacity to the positive attitude and determination she cultivated at a young age. Shcakia knows that other people with her background aren’t always so lucky, unfortunately. Every child is different. They’re affected by the hardships of the foster system in any number of ways.

Eventually, Shcakia gained employment as a lead generator at LinkNow Media. At first, it was a job like any other, but then Shcakia learned about LinkNow’s involvement with Batshaw Youth and Family Centres. She learned about the New Secret Santa Project and the tens of thousands of dollars the team raised each year. It wasn’t—and isn’t—any regular funding drive. While in the past LinkNow relied on donations from LinkNow team members, we now go a step further. LinkNow seeks donations from individuals and businesses throughout Montreal.

It was LinkNow’s involvement with Batshaw Youth and Family Centres that prompted Shcakia to share her story. At the 2017 LinkNow Talent Show fundraiser, Shcakia spoke to the crowded auditorium. She told them about her family’s background, Batshaw Youth and Family Centre, and the many hurdles she’d had to overcome in her life.

Her speech was emotional, but by no means saddening. Her hope with the speech was that it might resonate with other people who’d had difficult upbringings—and she wanted to show that fundraising mattered.

All her life, Shcakia has made sure she did not let herself fall victim to the world’s expectations of at-risk youth and foster children. She’s never wanted to be another statistic, and she doesn’t want anyone else to, either. She wanted other foster children to know that there is a whole world out there for the taking.