From fixing cars to discovering his passion

For much of his life, Yash Shastri dreamt of working on cars as a mechanic, until one young boy influenced him to change his life direction and pursue a new passion as a caregiver.

By Emmett Steele ‘22

When Yash Shastri ‘17 graduated from the Automotive Service Technician program in 2017, he was ready to start his career working with cars. With garage experience and a diploma under his belt, he joined the workforce and was doing work that made him happy. He worked as a licensed mechanic for four years with a few different garages, but Yash couldn’t stop thinking about a connection he had made during his time at Mohawk, a connection that completely changed his life and his future. 

“It’s not that I wasn’t happy with my career or my profession, I liked what I was doing and also was making a good amount of money,” said Yash, reminiscing about his time working as a mechanic. “The problem was within me, and the effects of my Mohawk College volunteering experience.” 

To understand Yash’s story, we have to go back to his time as a student at Mohawk College. While at college, Yash would spend time looking for volunteer opportunities, and one day, he found an unusual flyer. 

“When I was at Mohawk, I always wanted to help others as much as I could. I was always into and getting involved with Mohawk events and volunteering opportunities,” said Yash. “One day, I saw a flyer on the wall, and when I looked at it, there was a family looking for a volunteer to play with their kid who has autism. I thought, ‘okay, sure, I can try it.’” 

“The family lived in Burlington and I used to live in Hamilton, and I didn’t have a car at that time because I had just arrived to Canada in 2016,” Yash continued. “The parents tried to tell me, ‘No, it's okay. You can’t come. It's too far.’ I had to transfer between four buses, and it took two hours to get to Burlington. It was a lot of effort, but I started doing it. And as I did, I started seeing remarkable changes in the child’s life.” 

Seeing that change and how it impacted the child is what kept Yash going back, supporting the family whenever he could. 

That was always a driving factor for me, that this is something which is very cool and gratifying. The first time I had no idea how to talk with or how to play with the kid, but then he just came to me and he hugged me when we met,” said Yash. “His mom started crying in front of me, saying ‘my son has not done this with anyone.’ That showed me that we have a connection. I decided to continue seeing him, and to this day, I go and see him every day. When I started, he was six, now he's 13. 

Yash spent more and more time with the boy, juggling work and the boy's therapy, until he realized he wanted to make a change and dedicate his career to helping people in the neurodiverse community.

“I was a mechanic during the daytime, working a nine-to-five job. But whenever the evenings or the weekends rolled around, I was with my buddy, always,” said Yash. “I still enjoy cars. On the weekend, I still work on cars. But my goal has changed from working on cars to working with the special needs and neurodiverse communities.” 

When he came to this realization, Yash enrolled and went on to graduate from the Autism and Behavioral Science program at Mohawk College. Yash currently works at Anchor Rehabilitation as a behaviour therapy assistant, and he loves the work that he does every single day. “I’m in a place where I have so much passion while I'm working,” he said. “I never dread coming to work on Monday. I am ready [and] excited to go and see my clients.” 

His favourite part of his work is seeing the impact he can have on the lives of people that he helps. “When I enter into the client's life or family's life, they’re usually in a crisis situation or they're in desperate need of some help and support. Situations where [police] or Children’s Aid Society get involved,” said Yash. “From that stage, when I see the family after working with them for a few months or years, and the development the person or the family is achieving, that's the best part for me and that's what keeps me going in my career.” 

Yash says, “Mohawk College actually shaped my future and gave me a purpose to my life. If I wasn’t at Mohawk, I wouldn’t have seen that flyer, and I wouldn’t have changed my career path or my focus in life.”