Youth and Community Engagement
The YMCA believes in the importance of investing in youth. There is a call on the YMCA to focus on helping our children and youth gain a positive start, the chance to grow, learn, reach their potential and realize their dreams. The YMCA believes that by providing our young people with a supportive environment in which they can flourish, we create the foundation for a healthy, vibrant future for every individual in our community and for our society as a whole.
The YMCA has a long history of working with the young people of our community, helping them to gain the skills, confidence and support they need to achieve their full potential. Today, we are building on this experience and are focusing on the healthy development of our children, youth and young adults.
In particular, the YMCA will support and work with Group Leaders to realize this as teens in our programs gain increasing autonomy and take steps toward realizing their hopes and dreams. We are there to help them thrive, working with our youth to create relevant programs and services that build their sense of identity, help them gain confidence and ensure their wellbeing as they reach for their potential.
To this end, all exchange programs will contain a community project within their hosting plans. Groups will be strongly encouraged to actively engage their students in the design of this activity including the selection of an activity meaningful to them, and the planning and implementation with their twin group.
Activities will vary from group to group but may include:
a day long fundraising activity,
assisting members in the community,
community awareness project
other projects important to the community and youth participants
The inclusion of this type of activity is specifically designed to increase participants’ awareness of their own and their host community, to learn the value of giving of one’s time and talent, to find ways to build students’ competence so that the community comes to better appreciate youth as valuable resources. This helps to build skills and resiliency as young people, during their teen years, transition towards adulthood.
Using the YMCA Approach to Working with Youth, young people will move closer to being engaged, feeling a sense of belonging and competence and developing a greater self-awareness in determining their identity. Exchange programs will contain the following elements:
Engaging Participants – Youth engaged through a YMCA experience, find value and enjoy an activity or program that is sustained over time; the activity or program provides a meaningful link between the individual and the outside world; and can be perceived to be meaningful and significant by the young person (Centre for Excellence: Youth Engagement). In order for youth to be engaged they must be part of the program and involved in making decisions that affect their own experience.
Provide Opportunities to Build Competence – “Being good at something” is one measure of the quality of engagement a young person experiences (Centre for Excellence in Youth Engagement). Feeling competent at something allows any human being to develop a sense of self-efficacy (the sense that “I can make things happen in the world”). The program will encourage opportunities for youth to “succeed at something”.
Ensure that Youth Belong – Young people monitor the interest being given to their ideas as interest affirms their sense of acceptance. They are sensitive to perceived peer support and their sense of offering something worthwhile to the group. The YMCA will work with Group Leaders to support them in ensuring that their youth feel like they belong.
Allow Youth to Explore Identity – This program will provide youth with an opportunity to try on new identities, to be someone new and feel different about ones self.