Above and beyond
Game Changers makes youth feel safe, empowered and resilient
Two feuding students avoided expulsion through mediation. One student had formal charges withdrawn by participating in restorative justice measures. Another student and family navigated the justice system and were connected to housing, mental health and primary health care resources. These are just a few examples of what the Game Changers program is all about.
P. Anneka Lynch, Youth Justice Worker, sees first-hand what Game Changers can do. “I came to the Youth Arcade when I was younger and worked there as a volunteer and Peer Leader. I even worked on the Arcade’s Born in the Hood book. But being part of Game Changers has given me broader insight into young folks in two very different settings: school, and the communal/familial setting of the new Youth Justice location at Keele and Finch. When young people feel unheard, disenfranchised and unmotivated, they can make poor decisions. Game Changers helps them find connections, so they feel safe, empowered and resilient.”
By building the bond between youth and peer leaders/staff, Game Changers helps young people in school understand themselves better so that they can make better choices in the future. Through the holistic process, staff also help young people navigate school, the justice system, and family. And our Enhanced Game Changers program goes beyond the typical 9 to 5 hours, offering help during evenings and weekends when it wouldn’t be available otherwise.
But self-awareness doesn’t stop with the youth. “While helping with Game Changers, I’ve grown too. Just like the people we help, I’ve been able to learn, laugh and trust.”
peer mediators improved their ability to resolve conflict in schools before it escalates into violence
A spot of kindness
Young men in The Gentleman’s Spot youth group gave back to their community
Like the many other programs in our Youth Arcade, The Gentleman’s Spot provides a safe and supportive environment for youth. The Gentleman’s Spot is a mentoring group for young men to discuss issues that affect them, including anti-violence, racism, gender equity and criminal justice. But what happens when social distancing temporarily closes the Arcade? According to Solomon Muyoboke, the Gentleman’s Spot facilitator, the youth take The Gentleman’s Spot to the community.
“We try to keep our programming centred around give-backs to community members that are vulnerable. And I’m proud to say that when COVID-19 hit, the young men in this group wanted to donate their time and energy for people who were homeless. The group came up with the idea to help people on the street by purchasing and making lunches, including sandwiches, fruit and granola bars.”
“The community has embraced and praised the hard work of these young men, and the people who received the food have been incredibly grateful. Some were even moved to tears. Doing this has changed the way some of these young men look at the less fortunate. It changed the way these young men see people who are homeless. And it shows the community that young urban men really do care about their neighbours.”
Young men feel connected to their community by handing out 379 meals during COVID-19 to people who are homeless
Veronica gained comfort and confidence through Youth Awoken
As a young woman, Veronica was withdrawn, unsure of who she was, and where she was going. Joining Youth Awoken changed all that.
Operating after school, Youth Awoken engages 200 at-risk youth through inclusive activities developed by the Youth Council, peer leaders in Youth Awoken. Programs include cooking, basketball, and group discussions about issues that are important to young people. The opportunity to participate and be supported by peers helps youth who are struggling with substance use, dysfunctional family dynamics, sexual awareness and mental health.
Everyone at Youth Awoken made it easier for me to open up and share what I was going through, that I was having trouble at home and dropped out of school because it was too tough. I also felt comfortable enough to share that I’m part of the LBGTQ+ community.
The support Veronica had from peers and staff boosted her confidence dramatically. She returned to high school and is one of the leaders on our Youth Council. In the past year, she graduated from high school and applied to university. She even reconnected with her father and visited him in the United States.
“My mother is so grateful there was a place where I felt safe and secure to find myself and grow. I can be myself in Youth Awoken. It gave me the courage to not be ashamed of who I am.”
The peer-led Youth Council from Youth Awoken develops programing that engages young people in a wide variety of activities and workshops to help them cope with substance use, family dynamics, sexual awareness and mental health.
at-risk youth build confidence and resilience through the support of Youth Awoken