For the past 8 years we’ve worked alongside the Siksika Employment and Training Services (SETS) to develop a youth-centered program called Meaningful Futures. This program supports a group of youth 18-30 years old to develop leadership skills and explore learning and career opportunities. For 8 weeks the group learns strengths, explores interests and develops skills, and then participants engage in an 8-week paid work placement within the community.
It is a challenging process where youth push themselves outside their comfort zones. One participant shared “[I] feel really proud of myself for completing the program, there were a few times through the last 5 weeks where I didn’t feel like I could do it, but I did. I’m really excited for the next steps in my life.”
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, we’ve had to adapt our approach quickly and responsibly, find different long-term outreach models and re-think how to engage in safe ways. We’ve moved our programming to an online platform and have found new and exciting ways to adapt our Unveiling Youth Potential workshops to engage youth and community.
In May 2021, we launched a fully online version of the 8-week classroom portion of the program. With the support of the youth involved, we were able to develop a roadmap of how we wanted to engage with each other, stay connected while apart, and set ourselves up for a challenging but rewarding learning experience. We were able to adapt our Unveiling Youth Potential tool kit successfully to Zoom, including leadership activities, films, workbooks, self-directed learning projects and presentations. We realized that the online program opened up many opportunities to bring in guest speakers from all over Treaty 7. Some feedback from the youth included: “I really enjoyed having the guest speakers come in a talk to us, it’s great to see people from our community or from our age group following their dreams. Makes me think I can do it too”. We included Elders, guest speakers and community members into our virtual space and took the participants on virtual fieldtrips when we could.
Our Unveiling Youth Potential approach offers opportunities for youth to explore their stories, develop their leadership skills and realize their potential to be changemakers in their community despite COVID-19 restrictions and limitations. We are grateful for the relationships we hold and the connections we are still able to make despite COVID-19 restrictions. With support from our partners, we’ve been able to continue to develop our approach, support youth to be changemakers in their communities, and amplify their voices more broadly.
We believe that many ordinary people taking small actions creates the biggest change and we are grateful for the invitations to work alongside community, and we honour the relationships and connections we are able to create and maintain everyday.