Edgar's Story

Edgar Hernandez

Meet Edgar Hernandez, the 35-year-old Program Manager and leader behind the YMCA Newcomer Youth Centres. Over the last 18 years, the YMCA has been there to ignite Edgar's potential, and he has shown resilience, dedication, and adaptability in his effort to help newcomer youth in our community. Through his leadership, Edgar has not only transformed the Newcomer Youth Centre experience, but he is also building a legacy within the YMCA community.

Edgar came to Canada from Colombia when he was 13 years old. He says he didn't speak the language well and felt disconnected from the community. One thing he had in common with his neighbours was a love of soccer. 

"I had a good friend who was a little bit older than me, who said, 'You know what, let's go to the Y, and let's get you to play soccer there,'" says Edgar. "My first experience [at the YMCA], I thought it was great. It was a beautiful facility, a place where you can connect with people." 

At the end of high school, Edgar found a part-time job as a YMCA Beyond the Bell Educator. 

"I think that's when I started to understand my passion for working with youth," says Edgar. "One of the biggest things I got out of it was talking in front of people and facilitating group programming and activities for these young kids." 

In 2010, personal circumstances forced Edgar to pivot from his academic pursuits at Mohawk College and seek full-time employment. With the support of his YMCA coaches, Edgar learned about a new opportunity as a youth settlement worker on the YMCA Immigrant Services Team. Working with his coaches and colleagues at the Y, Edgar prepared his resume and applied for the job.  

"I got that full-time youth settlement worker job," he says. "Seeing the leadership of my supervisors and mentors to do what they needed to do to help me out as a person...I think that's what makes the difference at the Y—the employees are also looked at as people who need support."  

The Newcomer Youth Centre became a project for Edgar and the YMCA after the former centre, run by a different organization, was shut down. Looking to garner some trust and rapport in the community, Edgar came up with an idea. 

"One of the first things that I did was to organize a FIFA video game tournament, FIFA 2010," he says. "Immediately, we had about fourteen kids sign up for that tournament, and we started playing." 

The FIFA tournament has been a monthly activity at the NYC ever since, and it is one of the activities that attracts the most youth. 

Under Edgar's guidance and leadership, the Newcomer Youth Centre has grown into a place where youth from all cultural backgrounds and circumstances can build community. They tell their stories and have fun together, but it's also a place where they can find academic help and seek guidance about their future. Edgar has led the growth of the Newcomer Youth Centre, from four or five youths a day to hundreds of young people walking through the doors regularly. 

Edgar says it always comes back to his work with youth. He recalls one young woman struggling with her cultural identity as a newcomer to Canada. 

"I talked to her and tried to support her through it. But then, I received a call from her at two in the morning, and she was going through a situation where she was contemplating suicide. Thanks to the training I had through the YMCA, I was able to talk her through the situation," he says. 

"The biggest thing for me was that she felt safe enough to come and talk to me at that time so I could help her through it, and she understood that I was someone she could turn to get help." 

Edgar says he recently spoke with this young woman, and while she is still working through some challenges, she is doing well. 

Edgar is a vital part of our YMCA. From his first experiences finding a welcoming place as a newcomer youth to his first role as a Beyond the Bell Educator and supervisor, to Youth Settlement Worker and finally to Program Director. Today, Edgar leads a team of twelve staff, manages three Newcomer Youth Centre locations, and manages multiple programs that foster opportunities for growth and belonging. 

The YMCA has changed Edgar's life; now, he is changing the lives of the next generation of youth, igniting their potential to shine.

#Ignitepotential #TheYSavesLives #ShineOn 


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You can read Edgar's story and more like it in our:

2023 Impact Report