I had about 6 people working with me on this project including myself, our two speakers, and those who helped me advertise the program.
I spent at least 10 hours per month planning activities, scheduling and attending meetings, and delivering hot lunches to hospitals.
I was lucky to attend the Passion to Purpose Bootcamp in March. At this event I had the opportunity to hear about several successful projects, and this inspired me to lead my own. I came home planning to organize a day of self-esteem workshops for 40 youth. A few weeks after, everything locked down for COVID, and I decided to put my project on hold. During lockdown I began noticing that youth needed the topics that I wanted to focus on, such as resilience and setting boundaries, more than ever. I decided to contact an organization that I had worked with extensively before, ShEvalesco, and they were happy to organize workshops for the girls. Alison from ShEvalesco and I put together 4 weeks of workshops around topics such as resilience, assertive communication and mindfulness. The goal of my project was to help youth feel more comfortable around these topics, as well as create a community where they could connect with others during the pandemic. We divided the youth into two groups, a 12-15 age group and a 16-18 age group. These are all topics that I feel are so important for youth to learn, and that I wish I was able to learn when I was in high school. All youth who completed all four workshops were given a certificate of completion, a crest and a workbook to continue learning about the topics we had covered.
At the end of the workshop we sent out a feedback form and received so many wonderful comments that showed me that I really did achieve what I set out to do. Here are some examples:
“This program has helped me feel more confident and resilient in many ways. I think that through the learning of each workshop I learned things that can be used in multiple scenarios. I think that things like learning about failure, boundary setting and being assertive are great skills to have because they allow you to communicate clearly with others and allow you to not be so hard on yourself. The self care workshop is also really helpful going forward to remember to take time for yourself.”
“Using the skills I have learned, such as being told that it’s okay to fail and make mistakes, and that we will not be good at something the first time we try it, it made me confident to take my test next week.”
“These workshops have given me more confidence because I now feel as though I’m not the only one who struggles with these common problems. I also enjoyed learning new skills that I can use in my everyday life.”
There was a better response to this project than I could have ever imagined. I did not have to advertise the workshops very much before they filled up. I simply posted them in a few youth program Facebook groups, and we immediately received many sign-ups. We were aiming to have 40 youth take part in each group, and we ended up having over 90 youth participate. All of the participants were very engaged throughout the whole program. Many of them mentioned how they liked that they had the opportunity to talk with other youth each week. It helped to form a small community.
Here are some other quotes from the participants about what they enjoyed:
“I am more resilient as I have acquired valuable skills from the workshops. Going forward I intend on using this knowledge and skills to better improve myself as a human both mentally and emotionally.”
“I learned a lot from the assertive communication workshop. I didn’t know the benefits of being assertive, and when I tried some of the strategies discussed in the workshop with others, I felt a lot more confident. My opinion of how others see me has become a lot more positive. The setting boundaries workshop was helpful as well; learning that setting boundaries is a kind and beneficial thing to do for everyone really helped me to say no to people when I need to.”
“The program has helped with my confidence and it helps me with standing up and talking to people that I normally don’t like talking to.”
One of the coolest parts of offering the workshops virtually was that we were able to have youth from all over Canada engaged, including youth in very small towns. Some of the youth would not have had the opportunity to participate otherwise, so the fact that these workshops were virtual ended up being a very positive thing.
One of the best parts of the project was receiving the feedback and having the girls let me know how much the workshop impacted them. I also received several emails from parents that let me know how impressed they were with the content. I truly believe that these are topics that youth want and need to learn more about.
Here were some of the things that the youth mentioned they enjoyed:
“My favourite part of the workshops was the real life examples and scenarios. I thought that applying the skills we talked about to plausible situations that are similar to ones I will probably encounter really helped to increase my confidence, and helped me to remember what we learned.”
“I liked when we broke off into small groups and we talked to other girls. I liked it because I felt like other girls could relate to relate to what I was feeling and going through. It made me feel better.”
“I personally enjoyed the Self care workshop as I have recently observed that I need a little more compassion and love towards myself. The workshop really helped me acquire more knowledge on the steps towards ultimate self love and care.”
I learned so much about the topics that youth are interested in learning about. I am hoping to run more programs around similar topics, as well as different topics. Youth have indicated to me that they are very interested in learning about things such as money management and mental health, so I will be looking for more ways to offer similar programming. This experience has shown me how impactful virtual programming can truly be.
Once we began planning the program, we really did not need to make many changes. The program ran very smoothly.
I feel that most of this project went very well and ran very smoothly. The fact that we were able to engage so many youth from across Canada, and teach them different skills that were useful, made this a successful project. It was especially meaningful to be able to connect with youth in different parts of the country. Reading the feedback let me know that this was a project that was very successful. The fact that I was able to organize a program where youth were able to learn more assertive and communication skills, and where they were able to create a country-wide community during a global pandemic, was just awesome.
When I originally planned the workshops, I did not think that we would have interested youth from all over Canada. I thought that most of the participants would be from British Columbia, so we planned the sessions to be on Monday evenings. The 12-18 group was from 6:45 to 7:45. It ended up being quite late for many of our participants in more Eastern time zones. We still had a lot of participants from these time zones, but we could have had even more if we had picked a time that would work for participants across Canada. If I run these workshops again, I would most likely host them on a weekend so that we could find a time that works for everybody.
I am looking forward to organizing more engaging opportunities for youth. This opportunity has helped me learn how to make virtual events more engaging. Things such as break out rooms, asking questions in the chat and giving you scenarios to work on helped keep the youth engaged for the entire time. I will use these strategies going forward in the future. I also learned it’s important to give youth an incentive to keep them engaged. Having the certificate of completion, workbook and crests offered at the end to those who completed the program further encouraged them to attend each session.
Do not be afraid to take on new initiatives, even during the pandemic! There are so many cool virtual opportunities that can be done now. People want to be involved and engaged more now than ever. Do not be afraid to reach out to other organizations for help too! I had an amazing experience working with ShEvalesco and learned so much about hosting virtual events from Alison. There are many other organizations who are open to helping to offer similar experiences! It is such a good opportunity to learn new skills, develop your confidence and make a difference. Go for it!
Carissa Konesky, Award Participant and Passion to Purpose Grantee