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Since Day 1: Abel Berhane

March 11, 2024

Meet Abel Berhane. He's 16, lives in the downtown Toronto area, and has been attending LaunchPad since the very first day it opened.

Abel began his journey by attending a basketball program as an 11-year-old and has continued to grow into an impressive young man. After completing the Leaders In Training program at LaunchPad, Abel was recently hired as Sports Programming Assistant. In his new role, Abel looks to pay his experiences forward in order to inspire the next generation of youth.

Q: Tell me about your journey through MLSE LaunchPad.

A: In 2017, MLSE LaunchPad was a real hot topic. I was at TCHC camp and we got to come here on opening day. The Raptors were here, the community was here, I knew this place would be important. When you signed up here, you get this small purple membership card. That card is cool – people knew you came here. I came to almost all the programs over the years. We signed up for everything – from hockey to badminton. Here 4 days a week. I just couldn’t come on Monday’s because it was girls’ night.

Q: Why did you want to join the LIT program?

Most people who come here know about the LIT program and want to be a part of it. I was trying to set myself up for it a year before I was even eligible. I asked the coaches and mentors what I could do, and they told me I had to show I was committed and reliable. I started coming to volunteer and join our March Break programs. I would do anything. Score keep, admin, whatever would show the team that I cared and that they could count on me.  

Last year my sister Ruth did it too. Besides the money, it's family here. It's comfortable here. Why wouldn’t you want your summer job to be at a place that felt like home?

I know all these guys from other areas because of this space. We were all in different elementary schools and when we got to high school, we all knew each other because of MLSE LaunchPad. We had our group chats on Instagram “who’s going to the runs today, where we meeting”. This place has always been one of the spots and I wanted to have a bigger role here.

Q: What do you aspire to? What’s your big dream?

A: I feel like I’m supposed to talk about my career or something but honestly, I want to be a father one day. That’s what I hope for. My parents do so much for us. The way my dad looks at me… I want to look at someone like that. Just being able to live life… it’s the best; how cool would it be to give another one? To pass on your legacy. To raise someone well. To pass on our knowledge.

My parents came from Ethiopia and started a whole new chapter here. I gotta to be able to do something big like that too. I’m excited for that. They lived a whole other life. Like I have a bus I can take to school. My mom didn’t have that. We have so many blessings – I want to find my own journey and hopefully have my kids look up to me the way I look up to my parents.

Q: What do you think the most valuable part of the program is?

A: Well first I feel like we should be paying to be in the program rather than getting paid to do it. It’s a wicked opportunity to take advantage of. Honestly, the training is underrated. It’s all stuff we never heard from people who care to share insight with you and give you advice. It’s a lot of exposure. You are surrounded by people who care about you. There’s so many jobs that exist that you don’t even know about. The trainings and speakers opened my eyes to what’s out there and that’s so valuable.

Q: What’s the change you want to see in this world?

A: I always pray for peace. It can’t come just like that but man, if there was just peace in this world. People want to change things. To help the earth; we can’t even get on the same page with that. I wish we could just have more cooperation. I wish it was that simple. The politics we get exposed to - it's wild. But change starts somewhere. I’m blessed to be on this earth and I’m going to make sure I contribute in a good way.

“I know all these guys from other areas because of this space. We were all in different elementary schools and when we got to high school, we all knew each other because of MLSE's family here.”

Q: Tell me one thing you’d want to tell your younger self and one thing you want the older you to always remember.

A: Younger: Don’t regret anything you do. Always learn from it. Get exposure to stuff. Have fun. Always respect your siblings and family. They’re the most important.

Also, just a heads up that when you’re in your teens, you’re not an adult. You’re not prepared mentally or physically for the things you think you are. Enjoy every stage of ride. Take care of your life… you only get one. Some people take care of their shoes more than the important things. You can get new shoes – be careful which creases exist on your life.

Older: Never be scared to take on new challenges. Never know where it’s going to lead. Don’t be stale. Your plan might not work, you’re always going to change. But never forget where you come from. Remember the journey. It led you to become the person you are today. Everything is a process. Just pass another level.

I feel like it’s like ball. You start with a clear lane layup, then you get obstacles, a defender, other hand… it gets harder. But if you’re working on the right things, that’s the fun part. Make sure 30-year-old Abel isn’t just stuck doing clear lane layups in this life.

Oh, and please just save some money along the way.

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