AYE is Back!
A Youth Explosion is an annual storytelling celebration of young peoples' wisdom, resilience and healing. The event is in its 11th year, and after the whirlwind of social isolation, the relentless TikTok craze, and scrolling the screens of our cell phone devices, we are amped to bring together community, partners, and families, in person, to witness storytelling in all its vibrancy and creative expression. AYE is back stronger than ever! Each year, new energy is infused, new lessons are learned, and it evolves a little – but what remains at the heart of AYE is Storytelling, and centering youth experiences.
I'd like to take you on a timeline that gives a snapshot of what we’ve done, what we are learning from young people, and what we have in store!
On May 4, we hosted our first Engagement session which brought together past AYE supporters, storytellers and performers, and curious collaborators and storytellers to the TricoChangeMaker Studio at Mount Royal University. We were honoured to have Myra Good Eagle LaFrance open our session, and stay involved in the visioning, planning and activities for AYE.
This session involved sharing where we have come from, what we learned, our planning approach, and allowed folks to share insight to the vision of AYE 2023 (see photo above!)
We had past collaborators and new, signing up to stay engaged and connect with us following the session to find out how they might get involved.
Our second Engagement Session was virtual and brought in more young peoples' voices to the conversation. The session involved a lot of learning like our first engagement session, but this time, we had more interest from young people who wanted to join the Bridges Indigenous Leadership Team (BILT) and we were able to listen to stories from past AYE performers.
Outreach & Recruitment
Another aspect of AYE is the outreach and recruitment of storytellers and collaborators. We have held two Mini-Story Jam sessions in community so far, and have a handful more planned. These sessions involve Bridges staff, the BILT team, and past AYE performers or interested storytellers, coming into an organization focused on youth programming, to share what AYE is and how to get involved. We design our session based on the program's needs, or interests of the young people involved in programming. On July 19 we were invited to come to the Women's Centre of Calgary to share with the Girls Program for a day. The girls enjoyed listening to past AYE Performer, and current BILT member, Alanna Bluebird share her story of how she came to be a Spoken Word Artist. They practiced 'hot penning', and had fun exploring their wisdom stories while making Zines.
Our second Mini-Story Jam involved youth attending the 19th annual Run As One event in Siksika. We are grateful to be a part of this long-standing event, and we were able to get the youth excited about AYE this year. We had another BILT member, Reigen Kehler join us, and were so blessed to have her support for some of the conversations that came up. We learned that these young people have incredible insight into themselves. We enjoyed wisdom story exploration, and games. A part of our day involved asking the question: What is one word you would use to describe yourself – to summarize who you are?" These are the words that they expressed:
Upcoming Mini-Story Jams include a visit at Diamond Willow Youth Lodge, and inviting another young person in to share their unique storytelling gifts at the Jam.
Storyteller Call Out
We have a number of Preparation Workshops to help support and empower each storyteller in crafting their own unique wisdom story to share on the stage. These workshops are mentorship opportunities for young people to understand who they are, find out what is important to them, and explore how they want to share their wisdom. We want youth to feel empowered and confident to take the stage. For many young people in the past, it's their first time sharing in front of an audience. This is an opportunity to shine, build relationships, and get involved in something that instills action to create and lead change. We encourage youth to stay connected to other programs that Canada Bridges offers too, striving to maintain a supportive relationship after the big AYE.
Have questions, or want to get involved? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a direct message through our socials!