Wali Shah

As a high-school student, Wali looked for a way to fit in. He felt alone and socially isolated. Of South Asian origin and a Muslim, Wali sought a role model that he could identify with. With high family expectations, Wali grew anxious and depressed. He noticed that many other young people also struggled and that they dealt with these issues in different ways: some turned to smoking, drinking or drugs, and others sadly took their own lives. Wali wanted to feel better and wanted to find his own ways of managing the negative emotions that plagued him.

Wali pledged to pay more attention to his surroundings. Outside of school, he found social workers from a youth agency, Nexus Youth Centre, who spent time with young people. They talked about life, school and music. Wali learned about The Rose That Grew From Concrete, a book of poems by Tupac Shakur, which moved him deeply as a young person. He was touched by the poem; it spoke to him and he felt as though the poetry was an outlet for expressing himself for better mental health. This introduction to the written word gave him his first impetus to break free. His teachers Ms. Riley and Ms. McIntosh encouraged him to stay in school and allowed him to express who he is and develop his talent. Wali used his anxiety to create, his fears and doubts serving as inspiration. As a spoken-word artist and poet, he now reaches out to other young people. They recognize themselves in Wali’s words and stories. He has found a passion that drives him and gives him a sense of worth. Now he wants to help others find their own passion.