Mark’s StoryOthers, Community , Support
Contributed by: Inner Hope Youth Ministries
My maternal grandmother was Ojibwe from the Sandy Bay First Nation in Manitoba and I grew up within the Native community in East Vancouver. The Inner Hope community is my community –many of the families we walk alongside are people I grew up with and went to youth group with. Growing up, I didn’t have a father figure, and my mom wasn’t in the picture for a number of years. I went into the foster care system at 11, and my uncle fostered me until age 16, when I started living independently.
Growing up, I never wanted to be like my family. But in high school I wasn’t on a great path. I wasn’t keeping up with school and I was getting into partying. That changed in 2005 at Camp Qwanoes. That summer, the speaker at camp talked about God being a good Father, and the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This really shook things up for me. It made me realize I had been trying to do things all on my own, and I needed help to get onto a better path. I finished camp as a new believer and asked the camp director “What do I need to do to work here?”. He told me I needed to grow in my faith. I spent the next year going to church and the youth programs at New Beginnings Church, where I first met Carla and Jenny. The next summer I got a job at Qwanoes. After camp, I really wanted to keep growing in my faith, so I applied for their Kaleo leadership program. My high school transcripts weren’t great, but enough to get me into the program. The following year, Trinity Western University accepted me based on my Kaleo courses (accredited by Briercrest). I’m the first one in my family to graduate high school and university, not smoke, and not party.
I had the opportunity to intern at Inner Hope in 2012 while I was at Trinity. During my internship the staff did a survey about how much support we have had access to in our lives. I realized that so many people had helped me get to where I was. This inspired me to support other youth in my community. My education gave me the building blocks to help youth break down barriers in education. Without supportive parent figures involved, many students can fall through the cracks in school. They get left behind in alternative programs that don’t really push them, and they aren’t encouraged to go past high school. I know I would have benefitted from someone pushing me to believe in myself, stick with it, and aim higher. I want that for other young people; they’re capable of achieving way more than they or other people might think.
Over the years Mark has carried a number of roles at Inner Hope. He was recently promoted into a manager position that includes more involvement in hiring and mentoring the frontline staff team.