Hometown girl gives back big

By Cecilia Nasmith

From left: Cobourg Mayor John Henderson, Northeastern University regional dean and chief executive officer Aliza Lakhani, tech entrepreneur and St. Mary Secondary School alumna Takara Small and Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini

One of the newest Venture 13 initiatives is the gift of a hometown girl who believes in giving back.

St. Mary Secondary School alumna Takara Small is now a major figure in the tech world, but she made time to be the keynote speaker at this week's one-year celebration of the opening of Venture 13 – to congratulate the community on this amazing asset, and to explain what her program can offer to the young people of the area who aspire to a career in technology and entrepreneurship.


Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini – Parliamentary Assistant to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities – was present to help make the announcement, along with Northeastern University regional dean and chief executive officer Aliza Lakhani, a key partner in the initiative.

Small is now a technology journalist, consultant, public speaker and entrepreneur who has participated in programming on CBC, CTV, Metro Morning, the Toronto Star, Forbes magazine and even the big international technology conference now going on in Toronto.

Pretty heady stuff for the former fry girl at the Cobourg McDonald's, she allowed, but she did make time to visit her old alma mater.

The St. Mary students of today are filled with a sense of hope and inspiration, she said, “because the next generation are so eager to leave their mark, so eager to do more and be more.”

She now hobnobs with the leaders of Canada's largest industries, like Shopify and Blackberry.

“I know when something is great is happening, and I founded Venture Kids because I truly believe that giving back is important. That's something I learned here in Cobourg.”

Venture Kids provides free coding programs to young people, and teaches them entrepreneurial fundamentals and front-end development.

As well as instruction, it introduces them to leading figures from major companies like Twitter and LinkedIn – the hiring agents, the tech staff, the engineers.

“For young people to be able to have a seat in front of these people is not something that happens every day. “

The amazing things they will learn will not only benefit them as they plan for their future, but will also inspire their friends and contemporaries who share their dreams.

“It's such an honour to be able to do this, and be able to come back to my hometown and make a real contribution that will, hopefully, be replicated year after year,” Small said.

“I truly believe that a next leader of a Fortune 500 company will come from Northumberland, if they have the skills and the people around them to help them succeed.”

The program will have its official launch in June, she said.

“I am so honoured to be part of this initiative. I am so proud to say I am from Cobourg. Everything I have achieved is representative of how a community enables a young person in this town to achieve their wildest dreams.”