How much of an impact does growing up in a neighbourhood that’s labeled dangerous have on you? It depends on you.
I have lived in the Jane and Finch area for much of my life – approximately 15 years – and I had no clue it had a high crime rate or even a bad reputation until midway through my high school career. Granted, that wasn’t my major concern or something I even thought about as a teen. But as I got older I started to notice and realize it was often considered the worst neighborhood in all of Toronto.
But how much did this area I grew up in, and where I still live today, affect me? As a kid it didn’t bother me because I didn’t know anything different. What you see every day becomes the norm and anything other than that you might find strange. This is not to say my childhood was filled with violence and crimes that Jane and Finch is known for, but even with some obstacles my morals played the biggest role.
First of all, as a kid my parents and teachers told me about the basic rules of playing outside; don’t talk to strangers, don’t go too far from where an adult can see you, don’t eat something you picked up from the ground. As a teen I was expected to stay out of major trouble .I say major because most teens get into trouble or do something they will regret in the future.
During this time, I played basketball and soccer with my friends after school and during the summer break. We would often be back home by sunset or slightly after. I never had more than an argument or slight altercation with someone, probably because I was nice to everyone and stayed away from those that I knew would start something.
High school is usually where most people become a part of a clique or crew with whom they identify themselves. This is also where teens get introduced to drugs and other activities that could possibly shape their future. Westview Centennial Secondary School, much like Jane and Finch, has a negative reputation. Though no one has ever been shot in the school – unlike at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate – violence there is high and the school’s not known for having the best education available.
During my time there students were known to have gang affiliations and represent different blocks and areas. However, once again, staying away and keeping my distance was the easiest way for me along with my friends to avoid gangs.
Another fact that can be brought up about high-risk neighborhoods is that youths are more exposed to drugs and violence. None of my friends and I knew much about drugs as kids, however during high school they were well known. But my parents expected me to stay away from marijuana (since that was the only drug popular in school) and never formally told me not to do it. This might be because Somali parenting differs from western style, but that is a whole other topic.
Jane and Finch might not be the safest area, but regardless of what stands in your way at the end of the day, you choose the path you want to take no matter where you live.