With another year of organizing and hosting AYE under our belts, the Bridges’ team is able to take some time to reflect on the challenges, success and impact this event has on the youth who participated, the audience and the community. This is the time where we are able to be grateful for all the hard working volunteers, brave youth and generous supporters that make the AYE possible. Now is the time to share our story of why we feel this is an important event to host and how AYE is a vital part of building bridges in the communities we work with.
This year`s AYE is made possible by the support of Community Funds of Canada 150th, a collaboration between Calgary Foundation, the Government of Canada and extraordinary leaders from coast to coast; the Suncor Foundation and all our amazing community partners whom we value and appreciate very much.
AYE brings together youth who bravely take the stage each year to share their stories and their wisdom with communities from southern Alberta. The event showcases the adventurous and challenging work being done by these youth as participants of Bridges’ Unveiling Youth Potential Program – a youth empowerment program aimed at realizing the potential of youth and young adults by supporting their leadership roles in building strong, resilient communities.
This year, as a team, we wanted to provide a safe space and a supportive environment in which the youth voices would be truly heard. To prepare for the event we hosted a performer workshop to try and get to the root of what stories would be told and why it was important for them to be heard. As the workshop progressed we began to see stories being told through dance, song and even a rap or two! The creativity and vulnerability that the participants shared with us was truly inspiring and allowed the Bridges team and the volunteers to develop strong and genuine relationships with the youth.
At AYE 2017 we had 15 youth take the stage and share their stories to just over 100 guests. Tears were shed, laughter filled the venue and you could see sparks of inspiration in the audience with every story told. For the youth, it was a time to tell their truths and share their wisdom and for the community it was a chance to listen and embrace a unique learning moment.
The Bridges team worked closely alongside a small group of youth who took on roles, such as Stage Manager and Master of Ceremonies, and were thrilled with how much hard work and personal experience they brought to the event. We had an excellent group of volunteers who were flexible and committed to making AYE the best it could be this year.
The Bridges team was able to support a local Indigenous caterer this year, who add “the best bannock I’ve ever had” according to Bridges` staff member, Jennifer Kolhammer. We hosted the event at Festival Hall which is a beautiful, simple and community oriented non-profit venue located in the heart of historical Inglewood. The feedback this year was very positive overall and we are always happy to hear suggestions that can make the event even better for next year. To share your suggestions and inputs, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a final note our Stage Manager and long-time friend, Pelletier Medel, put into words her own personal experience with AYE and why she thinks it is such a vital event to host each year. She is a firm believer in the power of Storytelling and has committed her time to help empower youth in her own community. Here is what she had to say:
“I am so honoured to have spoken at this event again this year! There is so much power in sharing your story, it takes a lot of courage but I've seen the amazing impact a story can have. The power to change, support, heal and grow the people around us.
Sharing our experiences with others is not only empowering, it can help to light the way for those around us. The AYE helped me find my voice and a passion for seeing and aiding others in doing the same.
AYE is not just a youth event, it is a gathering of community, it is a learning opportunity and it is a chance for voices to be heard. It is a moment in time when people are able to remember why stories are told, the strength they give us and the feeling of wholeness we get when we are able to share our personal story with others. When we can let go of what people think, and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness- the feeling that we are enough just as we are, and that we are worthy of love and belonging - Dr. Brene Brown"
You can check out the photos by visiting the Canada Bridges Flickr page.
On behalf of the Bridges` team, we would like to extend our appreciation for your support in making AYE happen again this year. You’ve helped to shape our story and we are grateful to be able to share it with you.
We look forward to seeing you at AYE 2018!