Our Staff Team
It is the strong, caring, committed and Christian presence of YU workers among youth in North York that truly helps youth fulfill their life potential and transform their own communities.
Paul Bartley // Jane-Finch Community Youth Mentor
Paul, a recent graduate and professional athlete, is a community youth mentor in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. He uses his love for sports to connect with youth, especially young men. Read Paul’s stories.
Jesse James // Willowdale Outreach Worker
Jesse, a graduate of Tyndale University, joined YU in June 2010 as a part of a team launching a new outreach for youth in Willowdale – our Revolution(s) BMX program. Jesse’s desire to see growth and long-term change in the lives of youth will help shape this creative new endeavour. (And, yes, the picture is a wee bit of humour!)
Clement Lee // Willowdale Outreach Worker
Clement combines his passions for youth ministry and cycling as a community outreach worker for Revolution(s). He sees the Earn-a-Bike program as an ideal way to connect with unchurched youth in the community and to help them develop their skills in leadership.
Vanessa Madden // Jane-Finch Community Youth Outreach Worker
Vanessa joins the team as a Jane- Finch Community Youth Outreach Worker. Her passion for the arts, mission and a heart for youth have led her to serve in various theatrical plays and mentorship programs. Vanessa’s desire is to create an empowering artistic space for the girls of Sketch&Believe to express their creative voice with confidence.
Benjamin Osei // Jane-Finch Community Outreach Worker
Benjamin Osei is a community outreach worker and has been serving with Youth Unlimited since 2003. He currently runs several programs throughout the year for children and youth in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. Read Benjamin’s stories.
Karen Robinson // North York Team & Community Pastor
Karen recently moved into a new role as North York Team and Community Pastor. Part of her new role is to help build capacity on our North York Staff team through care and support, as well as developing relationships with churches so we can be effective in the North York area. Lastly, Karen also works with Scott Moore and our North York leadership team on strategic planning for our North York team.
Stewart Vander Velden // Jane-Finch Community Development Coordinator
Stewart is a community development worker in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood. His work, in partnership with World Vision, deals with systemic change on prevalent issues in Jane-Finch. He has a real passion for learning and growing and loves the idea of different groups of people organizing together to bring hope and healing to a community regardless of people’s differences.
Scott Veals // Downsview Outreach Worker
Scott works in the Downsview area, partnering with a variety of schools and churches to run after-school programs as well as an indoor soccer program at Jane & Sheppard. Beyond that, he also runs a street hockey program at Rexdale Alliance and works in partnership with their youth program. Scott has worked with youth for over 18 years and is a wealth of experience and knowledge!
Paul grew up in Toronto, Ontario where he was at an early age exposed to gang involvement but with the help of a strong family support system, was able to stay away from it and instead focus on sports, acting, music, and creative writing.
He graduated from the University of Guelph with a degree in Justice Studies and Sociology in 2008 and also received a Diploma in Law and Security from Humber College. He feels that he is called to serve in Jane and Finch which gives him the opportunity to use his gifts to reach youth. Paul sees himself as a “helping hand” to these kids who lack hope, by showing them the opportunities available to them and the potential they already have.
How Paul got connected with YU:
Paul’s passion for youth started at the early age of 15 when he began to volunteer with the City of Toronto and progressed to be a manager after 8 years of service.
Paul then got connected with YU through Benjamin Osei (a community outreach worker with YU) at a basketball tournament organized by the city of Toronto. He later joined the YU North York team in August 2009.
Paul’s involvement in the YU North York Team:
Paul has been involved in the “Hoop 2 Hope” program for over a year, where he mentors and coaches while integrating his faith and care for youth with his athleticism and basketball acumen.
Paul will be a youth mentor in YU’s “Blueprints”- an entrepreneurial program for youth that is set to begin in February 2010. This program seeks to break the cycle of poverty by mentoring youth interested in business endeavours ages 19-24.
Paul’s goal is to change the mentality of youth in Jane and Finch and hopes that they will come to know God in a personal way. He also realizes the importance of being a positive ‘male’ role model especially in the Jane-Finch community.
Jesse James has a wanted poster for the infamous character who, in the 1860′s and 70′s, was an outlaw who robbed trains, banks, and carriage. The live Jesse James, who is not an outlaw but a recent graduate, has a BA Honours in History. Unlike his predecessor, he doesn’t want to be shot in the back for $5000, but when his time comes to die he intends to be “worn out, not rusted out”.
In 2007 he tried out for Toronto FC. Had he made the team this website wouldn’t be listing him as a staff person but likely as a volunteer because he’s passionate about bringing people from the place they are currently (wherever that is) and into a greater place (wherever the best is) with whatever means he’s got.
How Jesse got connected with YU:
Jesse was connected with YU through Helen Wyse, the Associate Director of YU. After meeting Scott Moore, Jesse decided that YU was even more passionate about enlivening and bettering people through sharing God’s love than he was, and the idea of working with the North York team was too wonderful to pass up.
Jesse’s involvement in the YU North York Team:
In the Spring of 2010, Jesse joined the North York YU team ministry where he helped launch “Revolution(s)”. He is working out of Spring Garden Church and figuring out ways to incorporate his passion for learning with his passion for people, and his passion for growth with his passion for youth. The vision of Revolution(s) is to foster a community of young leaders to discover purpose & passion, the value of service and a healthy way of life. Right now, Revolution(s) does this through the sport of BMX!
Jesse is also involved in restorative justice, volunteering with Mennonite Central Committee with his wife. It is his desire to see justice and mercy worked together in equal portions so that Willowdale will be transformed by the renewal of its youth.
Jesse has plans to bike across Canada and the US, and to incorporate that into his work with YU and Willowdale’s youth. He also hopes to begin a bicycle-centred ministry, which would make his travel aspirations more realistic! And he hopes to grow a vegetable garden in his back yard.
Clement was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. He has been a stay-at home-dad for the past 10 years for his two boys, Graydon and Tristan. He and his wife Koon Wah have been married for 15 years and have lived in North York the entire time. In his spare time he enjoys cycling, snowboarding and playing hockey.
Prior to being a full time dad, Clement graduated with a degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Toronto and a Diploma of Christian Studies from Tyndale Seminary.
How Clem got connected with YU:
Clement was introduced to YU through Jesse and Rodway who were just starting up the Revolution(s) Earn-a-Bike program in 2011. They were in need of volunteers with a knowledge of bicycle mechanics and we were able to connect together through Spring Garden Church.
Clem’s involvement in the YU North York Team:
Clement’s focus is the Revolution(s) Earn-a-Bike program. This outreach program provides an opportunity for teens to learn basic bicycle mechanics and to develop their leadership skills. At the end of the program, the teens leave with their very own BMX bike that they built up.
Many of Vanessa’s childhood memories were joyful ones however growing up in a single parent and predominately fatherless community; there were many adversities to overcome. During her early adolescent years she found herself constantly searching for her identity in the mist of overcoming the negative stigmas that so often plagued her community. Fortunately, Vanessa discovered God’s love and her passion for the arts during these pivotal years of change and rejected finding her self-worth from men, the media and society.
For her grade 9 year, she was accepted into Earl Haig Secondary: Claude Watson: School of Performing Arts majoring in drama. The combination of an encouraging mother, working as a Street leader at Urban Promise Ministries throughout high school and performing in various theatrical, TV and film performances, she was able to find her voice to freely express herself with confidence. Vanessa graduated from Centennial College with an Ontario Advance Diploma in massage therapy in 2009. She is a Toronto based actress who has worked in the theatre, TV and film industry for the past 7 years.
How Vanessa got connected with YU:
Upon the return from a mission’s trip to Haiti, Vanessa’s passion to use the arts as a vehicle to inspire children/youth was reignited and knew she wanted to answer God’s call on her life to do full time youth ministry. She began to research various ministries and remembered hearing about Youth Unlimited and the work they did with youth. She was pleased upon visiting the North York Website to discover the Sketch and Believe program and instantly knew she wanted to be a part of this initiative. It was her story! The rest as they say is history. ☺
Vanessa’s involvement in the YU North York Team:
As part of the YU North York team, Vanessa will be overseeing Sketch& Believe, an arts program for teen girls in the Jane-Finch community that was launched in the winter of 2008 by Karen Robinson. This program seeks to see young women demonstrate confidence in expressing their creative voice within their community while discovering a God who loves them deeply.
Her hope through the Sketch & Believe program is to empower the young women of Jane and Finch to also find an outlet through the arts. Creating a safe space where they have the opportunity to discover, explore and express while instilling the confidence to overcome whatever obstacles that may come their way.
Benjamin grew up in Ghana, West Africa and later moved to Sierra Leone where he ran a successful bakery and was also a teacher. In 1996 Benjamin won a scholarship to Acadia University in Nova Scotia, where he completed a Masters of Divinity degree.
How Benjamin got connected with YU:
Benjamin has been working with Youth Unlimited for the past five years, but his ministry began well before that. When Benjamin came to Canada in 1999, he ended up in the Jane-Finch community and soon saw an obvious need for positive adult leaders in the lives of Jane-Finch’s young people. An informal ministry soon began, with Benjamin becoming a surrogate father to youth throughout the neighbourhood. He is married to Monica and has three children. He attends Lisle Memorial Baptist Church where he is an elder. Lisle is also a longstanding partnering church with YU in the Jane-Finch community.
Benjamin’s involvement in the YU North York Team:
Apart from reaching out to and mentoring youth, Benjamin runs a variety of ministries that reach a wide range of children and youth:
“Hoop 2 Hope” – a basketball mentoring program for guys ages 12-25 aims to guide young men on the journey to manhood; “Straight talk”- a weekly discussion group, a Spring Break day camp, and the “Seeds of Hope Summer Day Camp” – a program designed children ages 6-12 whose purpose is to enable each child to discover their full potential in Christ and to give them the skills to deal with various challenges they face on a daily basis.
Karen has a passion for the arts, for youth and social justice. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from York University and a Masters of Divinity in Youth and Family Ministries from Tyndale Seminary. She is also an ordained pastor through the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec.
In her spare time, Karen creates dance workshops and presentations for worship services and also enjoys dancing, playing ultimate frisbee, knitting, reading, and watching movies.
How Karen got connected with YU:
Karen was introduced to YU through her supervisor at Tyndale during her studies in the MDiv program. Karen joined Youth Unlimited in January 2004 where she worked in the Light Patrol team which is an outreach ministry that focuses on reaching out to homeless youth as well as young men and women working in the sex trade.
Karen’s involvement in the YU North York Team:
In the Fall of 2008, Karen joined the North York YU team ministry where she is currently developing and leading ‘Sketch & Believe’: a creative after school arts program for middle and high-school girls, that seeks to create a space for young women to be creative and to find their voice in their community (Jane-Finch) through art. Some of these creative projects include drawing, sewing, screen-printing and collages. This year, the program will also include portrait and still life drawing, batik and photography.
Karen is also involved in community development initiatives and is currently partnering with the Jane-Finch Church Coalition: an initiative that strives to meet the needs of at-risk youth and their families through excellence in mentorship, education, and spiritual programs.
Karen has plans to expand Sketch & Believe and eventually have multiple creative arts and special interest groups within the community. These initiatives will provide a safe place for young women to share their thoughts and feelings and express their ideas through the arts which will create deeper relationships not only with these girls but also with their families, and the community at large.
Stewart was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. He graduated from the University of Ottawa with a Bachelors of Social Science with a focus in Criminology. He has been married for 20 years and has 3 children. He has been in ministry his whole vocation, where he has served for the past 15 years in cities like Texas and Iowa in various settings including counselling, Christian therapeutic foster care, church plants, and mentoring programs for high-risk youth. He also has extensive experience in conflict mediation, and restorative justice work. He moved to Toronto in 2005 and is currently enrolled in the Masters of Divinity program at Tyndale. He loves spending time with his family, and in his spare time, enjoys running, rock climbing and geocaching.
How Stewart got connected with YU:
Stewart was connected to Youth Unlimited through a seminary professor at Tyndale. Shortly after, he joined the YU North York team in October of 2009.
Stewart’s involvement in the YU North York Team:
Stewart’s role is to work along side the community to develop a network of organizations and community groups to further assess community needs and gaps, and to develop strategic plans toward long term transformation in the Jane-Finch community. Read more about this in “community development“.
Stewart is “dreaming big” about the way in which YU can be a driving force in the long-term changes in Jane and Finch. According to Stewart, this new initiative is a huge long term project that he is very excited to be apart of. He hopes to be an influence in changing the image of the Jane-Finch neighbourhood, while in the process, engaging the faith community to be part of the transformation.