Igniting the Spark: The Youth Futures ProgramWritten by Khulood Al-Katta
I am a product of youth programs. Since high school, I've been attracted to being involved in anything that would give me an opportunity to network, learn, and grow. It is where I spent many hours during lunch and many more after school. Now I have the privilege of working with a youth program that mirrors the experiences I had in high school.
Since the winter of 2012, I have worked for Youth Futures: a 7-month long bilingual program that provides advanced leadership training, volunteer opportunities, a variety of employment positions, and a post-secondary experience. The goal of the program is to provide skills, information, and support for success in post-secondary education and the work place for high school students from low-income families and communities.
I first started out as mentor for the program and this past year I became the senior mentor. In addition to overseeing the coordination and administration of the post-secondary aspect of the program, my role is to support the youth in order to create an environment where they feel comfortable trying new things, exploring who they are and what they want to do in their futures. This includes providing guidance, motivation, and positive role modeling throughout the entirety of the program.
“The goal of Youth Futures is to give youth who come from families with little or no experience of post-secondary education, an opportunity to experience post-secondary studies, learn about all the possible programs that could interest them and become comfortable with the post-secondary environment,” explains Dr. Caroline Andrew, one of the program's founders.
The participants also have the opportunity to participate in an optional volunteer component that allows them to develop leadership skills and gain the mandatory high school volunteer hours required to graduate.
The advanced leadership training component of the program includes High Five, Level C CPR, and First Aid certifications as well as AODA training. It also includes various leadership games, mock interviews, and career exploration.
The summer employment element of the program gives youth the chance to work in a variety of positions in the public and private sectors, such as with Parks and Recreation, the Ottawa Community Housing Corporation, the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa, and the Museum of Science and Technology.
The first part of the post-secondary experience that is incorporated into the leadership training includes tours of La Cité Collégiale, Saint Paul University, Algonquin College, Carleton University, and the University of Ottawa. This shows participants the variety of courses and programs that are available; igniting the spark to encourage youth to begin thinking about what kind of training and education will best help them develop their passions and talents.
The second part of the post-secondary experience gives the participants a chance to explore various paths, topics, and services with the intent of generating discussions regarding post-secondary life through engaging workshops, presentations, and interactive activities.
What young people need the most is an opportunity and that is exactly what Youth Futures aims to provide. Often people might be quick to disregard youth because they believe they are too young to accomplish anything and make something of themselves. The reality is opposite: young people are capable of brilliant things when given the chance to showcase their skills and abilities, which can make them hungry for success. All they need is the opportunity to volunteer, work, earn, and give back to the community.
For more information about the Youth Futures program, visit: https://www.facebook.com/YouthFutures
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