10/06/2014 07:37 EDT | Updated 12/06/2014 05:59 EST

Diverse City fellowships: Making Toronto a better place

There are plenty of Torontonians with ideas on how to make this city a better place — and 26 will have the chance to develop their ideas through Civic Action's Diverse City fellowships.

The latest crop of fellows was announced last week. Among them is Mark Sam, a manager at the consulting and technology firm Accenture.

Sam told Here and Now host Gill Deacon he was inspired to join the program by the city itself.

“The biggest thing for me was now that I’m at a different point in my life, I want to be able to make a big impact on our city, the one that I was born and raised in and love,” he said.

Sam grew up in the Spadina and College neighbourhood. He says youth drop-ins and employment services provided through community centres had a big impact on his life, and have helped shape what he hopes accomplish over the next year.

“The biggest item that I’d like to focus on, I think, is underemployment,” he said.

“When growing up, the mindset was more do what you need to do, find a great job, settle in, and just make sure you’re able to get things done … but one of the items that I thought was difficult to overcome from a thinking perspective was if I set my goals extremely high, was it really possible for me to achieve those? Through the different services that I participated in — just mentors and role models making it very real for me — I think that helped motivate me.”

Sam wants to focus on services like resume screening for new immigrants and mentorship programs for youth.

“How do you get those structured, how do you get buy-in, and how do you get those implemented in communities?” he said.

“From a corporate perspective, I’d like to think I understand how to get things done in that atmosphere. From a city perspective, that’s what I’m hoping to learn.”

And Sam, who has spent much of his career working in finance, believes the private sector has a big role to play.

“I think private plays a very big part in civic action, in city-building,” he said.

“The thing that I love about the areas [I’ve lived in] is that all of the stakeholders who live in the neighbourhood, they all have an innate obligation that they feel to give to the community to make it better.”

As for what he hopes to take away from the program, Sam said he wants to see where the next year will take him.

“We had a good fellows kick-off yesterday and they asked all of us to describe the one word that we wanted to get out of the program when it completed. I said transformed,” he said.

“The fellows who have been selected are so diverse. In terms of what I want to learn, I think I’m going to leave it to the experience that’s going to come ahead in the next year.”