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Youth Transition Program of YMCA, Olivia

Youth Transition Program of YMCA

Scarlett and Simran met Olivia during a YMCA Southwestern Ontario event organized for newcomer youth. Olivia was there to do a presentation to introduce the YMCA’S new Youth Transition Program. We reached out to Olivia after the event to learn more about her and the program. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the Youth Transition Program?

My name is Olivia, and I am the Youth Program Supervisor for the Youth Transitions Program. I have an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Policy from the University of Guelph and I am very passionate about Youth Justice. My love for working with at-risk youth began in the summer of 2021. I landed a job working with at-risk youth living in low-income housing complexes. I gained incredible insight into the many external and internal factors related to the social determinants of health and youth development. The relationships that I had built with these vulnerable youth inspired me to continue working with diverse populations, which is why I became involved with the Youth Transitions Program. My education mixed with my employment experiences have pushed me to pursue this type of work and I have been fortunate enough to meet so many remarkable youths that continue to inspire me.

My past employment experiences with the YMCA as an Assistant Camp Director and Childcare Worker also contributed to my interest in this program. I have always felt respected and appreciated while working for the Y and the incredibly positive work culture has largely contributed to why I chose to return as a Y employee. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my golden retriever Henry and kickboxing!

Could you share a bit about what the Youth Transition Program is?

The Youth Transitions Program is a new program to the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario and the goal of the program is to provide vulnerable youth, ages 12-19 with the community support they need for educational attainment and future success. YTP gives participants a sense of belonging through one-on-one support and mentorship and offers workshops to develop the life skills they need to be healthy, stable adults. Through a trauma-informed and strengths-based approach, students will develop life skills, gain resiliency, cultivate positive mental well-being, and develop the capacity to reach their fullest potential. 

We offer in-person and virtual programming, one-on-one support, life skills workshops, peer mentorship, homework support/clubs, post-secondary education tours, access to technology, advocacy services, and much more. 

What makes it different from other youth programs?

What makes YTP special is that we look at the whole person. We take a holistic and youth-centred approach to understanding where the youth is coming from and meeting them where they are at. We encourage resiliency through a strength-based approach as we see potential and endless possibilities for each youth.

What’s something that you’d like to say to youth who might be interested but hesitant to join?

One of the benefits of this program is that it is free of charge and participants can enter or leave when they are ready. They can sign up for all activities or only be involved in one stream of the program. It is very flexible, and I encourage youth who are hesitant to join to attend one of the workshop sessions so that they can meet some of the other youth as well as the Youth Support Workers and get a feel for the program. There are also so many components to the program, such as the one-on-ones, where the youth can discuss their concerns with the Youth Support Workers, and they can create an action plan suited to their needs. Again, it is a youth-centred program, and we will meet you where you are at.

What motivates you to do the work you do with young people?

What motivates me to do this kind of work is the success stories that I have been fortunate enough to witness throughout my time working with youth. I have seen youth who were greatly at risk of entering the Criminal Justice system, turn their life around and choose a more positive life path. One of the reasons behind these success stories is because of the help they received from organisations and services that care about the well-being of youth. I like seeing the impact of my work and working with vulnerable youth is one of the most rewarding jobs out there. The amazing impact I have on others while in this role keeps me motivated and excited about what I do.

How do you take care of yourself while being in a role of supporting others?

Some ways that I take care of myself are by incorporating different forms of physical activity into my days. Over the last few months, my favourite form of exercise has been kickboxing. I have grown to enjoy it and I have gained more confidence and feel more powerful since starting. Another way I take care of myself while supporting others is by connecting with my family and friends. I am fortunate enough to have a strong support system at home and being able to vent or simply discuss what’s going on at work helps me release any stress or anxiety I am feeling. Self-care looks different for everyone, and I encourage others to try different things until they find something they like.

To learn more about the Youth Transition Program check out their website: Y Transition Program.