Brian Warren, Social Entrepreneur, Founder & Executive Director of Start2Finish
Start2Finish was born out of the vision of founder and social entrepreneur Brian Warren; that the effects of the cycle of child poverty could be broken in Canada by providing ongoing educational support to Canada’s at risk children throughout their school years, nurturing mind, body and social health so they would be empowered to graduate and succeed.
Brian grew up in an upper-middle class family in Phoenix, Arizona; his dad worked for NASA and his mom stayed at home to raise him and his two siblings, and then later went to work as a Special Ed teacher. He saw poverty, but not up-close, and he really had no idea what growing up in poverty was like. After graduating from high school, he received a football scholarship to the University of Arizona and went on to play in the pros for 10 years. Encouraged by his mom to give back, he taught at her high school for a couple of off-seasons. It was in those classrooms that he really saw the devastating impact poverty has on how kids learn.
Brian joined the Edmonton Eskimos and moved to Canada in 1987. He continued to work with kids in the off-season and quickly learned that the effects of childhood poverty do not respect country, creed or race (Years later this truth was echoed when he travelled to the rural villages in India where he lead the way to open 87 learning centers). After two Grey Cup championships and thousands of autographs sessions, especially with his younger fans, Brian retired knowing that he had no choice but to do something about what he has called the “silent scream”. He vowed that the signature he had written on so many little bits of paper over the years would be now used to help the 1 million Canadian children living in poverty. He would become their advocate; their “scream” would be heard and answered.
Of course there is no shortage of theories explaining why children living in poverty behave differently than their middle-class counterparts but, as on the football field, Brian did not want to just talk about the challenges but fix them; he was determined to find viable solutions to close the achievement gaps both academically and socially. He was convinced that children growing up in poverty in one of the wealthiest countries in the world could overcome their barriers and build a cycle of success. The key, he believed, was to put a holistic pathway in place that started in grade 1 and followed a child directly and indirectly through to their post-secondary years. Bold, yes, but this is the innovative model that would make Start2Finish unique.
The next step for Brian was to create the Pathway of Hope -- the basis of what Start2Finish is today.