The City of Toronto's community beautification program, Take BAC (Beautiful And Clean) 13 initiative launched two summers ago for 13 teams of youth from the City's 13 priority neighbourhoods. Since then, Toronto Community Housing outdoor spaces have been refreshed with new coats of paint, flowers and perennials, and creatively designed landscapes.
The summer activity has sparked so much interest this year that it was expanded and offered to 17 neighbourhoods including communities outside of the designated priority neighbourhoods. "Toronto Community Housing's Youth Engagement Coordinators, who had run the program at a few of their program sites, saw the rich youth engagement opportunity and worked with the City and Evergreen to expand the program" said Shequita Thompson, Economic Opportunities Youth Mentor. Crews from Regent Park, Swansea, Pelham Park, and Mabelle joined the competition despite the City workers strike, the raucous thunderstorms in July, and the limited amount of funding for the new entrants.
In an end of program twist, judges awarded three prizes of $500 instead of just one. One of the guest judges, Filsun Mahamed from Evergreen explained why, "Youth not only fulfilled their roles but extended beyond their capacity. By pushing themselves to another plateau, we had no other choice but to recognize their tremendous talent and hard work."
The three teams awarded were:
- Trimbee Court for Most Dramatic Change
- Malvern for Organized & Structured Project
- Swansea for Best Landscape
Kamarr, 16, from Trimbee Court speaks about his team's win, "It feels good because we worked so hard. At least the whole GTA knows that we did something in our community. With the [prize] money we're going to use it to make our project wheelchair accessible."