Developing leadership skills in youth

It’s hard to keep all the balls in the air—literally. Picture a room of youth tossing juggling balls to each other, calling each other’s names, seeing how many balls they can keep moving. It may sound like hysterical fun, but it’s got a purpose. It’s a lesson on communication.

This is one activity of the program A Leadership Journey: The First Steps. Developed by the Trust and delivered by Community Youth Networks in the Basin, this six-week program helps youth develop their leadership and communication abilities and actively think about making change in their communities. The youth come away with practical skills they can immediately use at school, at jobs and in their lives.

These sessions “allow them to see how to become a leader, make things happen and achieve a goal,” says Lori Joe, Coordinator, Kimberley Youth Action Network. It offered the program in January 2019, resulting in nine “graduates” from grades nine to 12, who can now add this certificate to their resumés. Plus, several of the youth have been inspired to join the network’s leadership team.

Like all of the Kimberley network’s activities, the program was offered because the youth asked for it. “The youth actually have a voice and get to speak to what’s important to them,” Joe says, “whether it be fun activities or initiatives or job readiness skills. They create the priorities. And then we create an action plan to support those priorities.”

PUTTING YOUTH FIRST

This youth-led aspect is also a priority of the entire network of youth groups. In fall 2015, the Trust built upon its previous work with youth and established the Basin Youth Network. At the community level, this network supports and provides funding to 28 Community Youth Networks, like Kimberley’s. These work to increase local activities and opportunities for youth aged 12 to 18, enabling them to learn new skills and engage more with each other and their communities.

For six years, the Rossland Youth Action Network has been offering “a ton of different programs,” says Coordinator Holly Borwick. More than 100 youth visit the centre over the course of a school year, including 20 to 30 youth during the daily drop-ins. There are various clubs and activities, and the latest Rossland Youth Week took place in June 2019. “It was a ton of fun,” she says. “There was an event each day so it was lots of work and a lot of the youth got on board with volunteering.

“We’re really lucky in this community to have a centre like this,” she says. “I feel there’s really a sense of community that’s grown around the youth centre. Youth are more inclined to help out and volunteer, and they come to me with their ideas, and they come to me with their problems. I think it’s a really important program.”

In addition to supporting Community Youth Networks like these, the Trust’s regional network also takes on Basin-wide tasks. It develops programs—like the Leadership Journey—that address youth priorities. It provides resources to local youth coordinators and others who work with youth. It also hosts events that bring together youth from different communities.

For example, in spring 2018 it hosted a Leadership Summit for youth. Here, participants developed their leadership skills, learned public speaking techniques, networked and took part in confidence-building activities. Nearly 100 youth came to the event in Kimberley from 22 communities.

With the help of the journey and other opportunities from Lori, I was fortunate to receive the community and volunteerism scholarship. This opportunity will help other students in the upcoming years, just like it helped me and my peers.

NAYEON HYUN, 18, PARTICIPANT OF THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY, KIMBERLEY YOUTH ACTION NETWORK

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

In all, more than half a dozen youth networks in the Basin have offered the Leadership Journey, including those in the Beaver Valley, Slocan Valley and Nelson. About 70 youth have completed the program.

While the Rossland network isn’t one of these, it hopes to offer the program in the fall. “It would be good to target some of the older youth to gain these leadership skills that are becoming more important in the job place,” Borwick says.

As for Kimberley, it hopes to offer the program a second time in September. During the program, participants identify some priorities that are important to them. By providing the program earlier in the school year, the youth would then have time to tackle these priorities during school months.

Becoming a leader and an active community member is a lifelong path. The Trust’s Leadership Journey—and the guidance of the region’s Community Youth Networks—help Basin youth take the crucial first steps.

The Youth Action Network is a place where they know your name. It’s also great because no matter who you are, you are welcome there, and it’s a great work space to do homework. I love helping with events and going to drop-in between my busy schedule.

SOFIA OLSON, 14, ROSSLAND YOUTH ACTION NETWORK