Life at YESS

Congratulations to YESS Chef Tiffany Sorensen, winner of the Janet Hughes Award from Edmonton’s Food Bank!

In May, YESS Chef Tiffany Sorensen was awarded the Janet Hughes Award from Edmonton’s Food Bank, which honours an individual’s commitment to direct food relief and solving the underlying causes of hunger. Tiffany has worked in our kitchens and programs for almost eight years, not only providing nutritional food for youth but also teaching cooking as an important life skill.

Tiffany was nominated for this award by YESS Chief Program Officer Jessica Day, and President and CEO Margo Long. This award from Edmonton’s Food Bank is named after Janet Hughes, the first chairperson when Edmonton’s Food Bank was formed in 1981.

 


 

As the Program Kitchen Coordinator for Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS), Tiffany Sorensen considers food, meals, and nutrition as more than mere necessities. Instead, she sees them as powerful tools that can aid young people in healing from trauma, developing resiliency, and acquiring new skills that can benefit them for life.

YESS youth come from a variety of backgrounds and regardless of their unique experiences, they are all experiencing trauma. Tiffany weaves this understanding into her work and prioritizes providing a safe and supportive space with interactions rooted in compassion and kindness.

Tiffany works with youth to educate them about food safety, nutrition, and fundamental kitchen skills, preparing them for their eventual transition to independence. She encourages young people to voice their opinions and preferences regarding food, allowing them to participate in creating the weekly menus or requesting homemade meals for their birthdays. By doing so, she fosters healthy relationships and addresses the underlying trauma associated with food and food security.

Tiffany has been deeply influential in supporting and collaborating with food bank locations within Edmonton. As our liaison, she fosters relationships with both locations and expertly manages expectations, communication, access, and resource supports. Her careful attention and nurturing demeanor make a meaningful difference in the lives of our youth, who feel empowered to ask for assistance thanks to her work reducing the stigma surrounding support-seeking. Even throughout the pandemic, Tiffany’s dedication and advocacy for our partners have remained unwavering.

In addition to her partnership-building skills, Tiffany has also leveraged her talents to produce short videos that demonstrate creative ways to use food bank items in both simple and complex meals. Her innovative approach to food inspires both our youth and staff, and she infuses each interaction with compassion and kindness, recognizing the unique trauma that our youth have experienced.

 


 

Did you know…

You can cook along with YESS Chef Tiffany too! Check out our playlist of Tiffany’s cooking videos for all sorts of meals, snacks, beverages, and treats!

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The Importance of Pride at YESS

Interview with Ash Dafoe, Youth Worker

Tell us about yourself and your position at YESS!

Hello, my name is Ash (she/they) and I’m a youth worker at the Armoury Resource Centre. I get to support our youths with connecting to resources and programming. 

 

What particular principles or processes does YESS have to ensure that programs are a safe space for youth who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ and may be on a journey of healing when it comes to their sexuality or gender identity?

YESS provides a safe space for youth who are a journey of self-discovery through inclusive language, resources, and programming. We strive to provide gender affirming care with support from our allies. The diversity in us as front-line workers who have and are continuing to walk this journey while welcoming and empowering youth to grow in their own ways, creates a positive impact on our surrounding community, and the lives of our youths. 

 

Why is it important to create this kind of safety for youth? Both in YESS programs and in the wider community?

We at YESS stand on our non-judgmental policy and teach others to view differences as the wholly beautiful human experiences that they are. When we work to integrate our youth into their local communities, we hope they carry these life lessons with them, making those communities more diverse, inclusive, and caring. 

 

Pride is about activism, but it is also a celebration! What is the impact of 2SLGBTQ+ youth having opportunities to celebrate themselves and share joy?

As we support these youth on their journeys, and by unconditionally accepting them into our community, we are empowering them to love themselves. When someone is truly accepted, truly welcomed to the table, and they come to love their whole self, this is what makes the world a better place. 

 

What is one thing you wish the community knew about youth who access YESS? 

I would love for the community to know that each and every one of the youth who have accessed YESS deserve to feel unconditionally loved, welcomed to the table, and empowered to love exactly who they are, right now, and in the future. 

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The Importance of Indigenous History Month

Interview with Nicole Radke, YESS Team Lead

June is Indigenous History Month, and June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day! Approximately half of the youth who access YESS are Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit), and we know that access to culturally specific experiences either through YESS staff or through partner organizations can be an important asset on the journey towards healing and a positive community.

 

Tell us about yourself and your position at YESS!

My name is Nicole Radke I come from a background of Cree/German parents, and I am currently the Team Lead at the Armoury Resource Centre.

 

What particular principles or processes does YESS have to ensure that programs are a safe space for Indigenous youth who may be on a journey of healing that includes their culture, their family, their extended relations, etc.?

We have been building relationships with different Indigenous agencies so we can provide our Indigenous youth ample opportunities to learn about their culture. We offer supplies they would need to practice their culture and will go to different ceremonies with them. One in particular has been our Land Connection where we learn about Mother Earth and get to connect. Our programs are able to provide [cultural or spiritual] medicine for the youth when it is needed. The staff at YESS are open and listen to the youth so we can learn about their practices and teachings. We recognize not everyone has the same teachings. We exist in a non-judgemental environment and give space so they know that they can determine their own journey of healing, we simply walk with them, learn with them, learn from them, and support them.

 

Why is it important to create this kind of safety for youth? Both in YESS programs and in the wider community?

Representation is so important when it comes to creating a safe space for the youth. There has recently been significant awareness brought to the Indigenous community and the mistreatment that stemmed from colonization, which was hidden for years. To be allies we need to provide space that is safe for our youth and provide a space where they know they can learn about their culture, they can share their culture, and that they can do this without stigmatization. Healing comes from reconnection and balancing. YESS gives this space to the youth by listening to their voices and hearing about what practices they would like to see in our agency. We have seen youth reconnect with culture because they were in a safe space, and we have seen them transition into independence and are leading the most beautiful lives filled with culture and stability.

 

Indigenous History Month is about activism, but it is also a celebration! What is the impact of youth having opportunities to celebrate themselves and share in the joys and practices of their culture?

We get to see their beautiful spirits. There is nothing that will give you more chills than when a youth is excited to speak about their culture and the exciting things they have done to celebrate it, whether it be attending pow wows and competing, beading, attending sweat lodges, going to round dances, or simply sharing stories about their ancestors. When we give them this space it gives them a chance to know that they are heard, and we care. I also love learning their native tongue from them. By giving them the opportunity to celebrate themselves we are making sure that they know they are seen, and we hear them.

 

What is one thing you wish the community knew about youth who access YESS?

They are some of the most incredible humans you could ever encounter. They are selfless, compassionate, caring, emotionally intelligent, and kind. These youth would give the shirt off their own back for someone else who was more in need. I would describe the youth at YESS as “bears”: they are protectors and always look out for those they care about. Most of these youth have been dealt difficult hands, but they have the skill set to manage these hands and they often are able to succeed while at the same time being the most caring human beings. The youth who access our services are some of the most resourceful humans you could ever come across. I would encourage people to just have a conversation with them and you would see how incredible they are.

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June Message from Margo

Hello everyone, and happy June!

 

As June celebrates Pride month and also Indigenous History Month, with National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, this is a particularly special time at YESS. Though safety and wellness and YESS means that we honour gender expression, sexuality, culture, spirituality, and personal exploration all year round, Pride and Indigenous History Month create a community-wide opportunity for youth to live these aspects of their lives out loud. In this month’s issue, you will hear about the practices in our programs that create safe, non-judgemental for all youth, all year round. Our team members in YESS Programs, Nicole Radke and Ash Dafoe, talk specifically about the importance and impact of creating safe spaces for youth who are Indigenous and youth who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. We also put our community spotlight on the Pride Centre of Edmonton and interview Executive Director Esjay Lafayette about their new strategic plan to build and provide safe spaces.

We hope you have a wonderful Pride, Indigenous History Month, and first day of summer!

 

YESS Executive Director Margo Long's signature

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The Importance of Connection at YESS

Tell us about yourself and your position at YESS!

Hi! My name is Clara and I am a full-time youth worker at the Nexus shelter at YESS. I work to meet youth where they are at and support them in their goals and needs. 

Our mission is to walk beside youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration. How is supporting youth to build positive connections part of the that mission?

By supporting our youth in making positive connections, we provide them with the resources and supports they need to achieve their goals. We at Nexus provide the youth with shelter, food, and clothing so they don’t have to worry about their basic needs while they are navigating their way out of houselessness. We support our youth, whatever their goals may be, whether it be family reunification, finding independent housing, or supportive housing. We collaborate with many great resources in the community to provide the support our youth need and help connect them with these positive supports to empower them in their journeys. 

How does YESS staff build positive connections with youth? Why is it important that our staff team represent the diversity of the community we serve?

At Nexus, we build positive connections with our youth through sharing meals together, colouring, or listening to music together. We really try to assess what our youth need and provide that for them. For example, if a youth needs some time alone to regulate their emotions, we can provide them with some space and offer them craft supplies or colouring books. We also build connections with our youth through getting to know their stories and supporting them. At times, it can be difficult to relate to what our youth are going through, but we use empathy and trauma-informed care to help them. By having a team that represents the diversity of the community we serve, we are able to better connect with our youth and understand the challenges and barriers they face. 

What is one thing you wish the community knew about youth who access YESS?

One thing I wish the community knew about our youth at Nexus is how resilient they are. I often see the youth meet many barriers and challenges, yet they stay positive and seek other ways to achieve what they want. They often get turned away from opportunities, but they don’t let that bring them down—they come back and ask for more referrals and resources that can help them in their journey out of houselessness. Working with these youth has taught me so much and I am so excited for what they will achieve!

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The Community Safety and Well-being Grant with the City of Edmonton

A Reflection from Jessica Day, Director of Program Innovation at YESS

 

When I first heard we were applying for this grant, it was while we were in the midst of sorting through the hurt and emotions and confusions within our community and neighbourhood on Whyte Ave. YESS has been working directly with EPS, the City of Edmonton, and several community members to try and heal the relationships between our agency, the youth who use our services, and the neighbours who live near our shelter. It was not my first instinct to consider the Community Safety and Well-being Grant  because we were still working on some very real safety concerns on both sides. I didn’t quite know how to market our shelter as meeting the criteria for developing safety within communities as a whole; we weren’t there yet. Grants are a funny process, in that you either have to develop something innovative to convince funders to believe in your project idea, or you have to have established a system of work that is worth investing in for sustainability. Healing with the community did not feel innovative, as we have had to address this in years prior. It also didn’t feel established because I did not know if we had a framework for practice that we could market to others.

It was equally confusing to me when I found out that the City of Edmonton partners and community members had insisted that we apply for the grant, as they felt we were already doing so much to establish the safety and well-being in the community and wanted to support our cause. They spoke to the efforts of our teams to communicate with the youth, host youth forums, tear down camps in the ravine, the collaborative relationships with EPS and the City and the neighbours, hosting meetings, and approaching the issues with a trauma-informed, educational lens. While it started from hurt and chaos, the community was starting to see and understand the work we were doing daily and the efforts done to inspire changes to keep the community safe while we do our work. They had been listening and paying attention and, in the process, wanted to help us sustain this work. I was humbled and I remember the executive team pausing to reflect on this before we gave the green light to apply.

When we heard that we had been accepted as one of 26 grant recipients, we were beyond excited! It was good news and a lot of money that would directly support the sustainability of our Nexus 24/7 sleep shelter. This would help us give youth a soft place to sleep and change the trajectory of their trauma, while also having space and capacity to help educate and support the community so future integration for youth is a possibility. This meant a lot to our team. We were equally excited to attend the formal announcement event with the Mayor and the City of Edmonton counsellors at the Islamic Family and Social Services Association. My fellow Director of Finance, Eddie Gots, and I were asked to attend as Margo was off on vacation and this was our first time attending a grant event like this together. We were proud, excited, and ready to share our vision of what this money could provide to our agency!

At the event, the experience was much bigger than a press event with some finger foods and networking. It was a humbling experiencing to see the number of organizations represented within the room, showing the power and desire for collaboration within our city. The interview was conducted by the Mayor, city counsellors, and the largest collaboration recipients (Islamic Family and Social Services  collaborating with Bent Arrow) who spoke so eloquently about welcoming newcomers to Edmonton and reminding the world that, “Padlocks do not create safety in communities. Safety comes from potlucks and meeting your neighbours.” Potlucks not padlocks was a profound summary of the many projects and groups within that room and it was inspiring to be part of it. We ran into many staff whom we have worked with in the past or in current collaborations and we were all able to celebrate and cheer each other on. It was the first time, in many years, where the focus was on who was working together and how can we connect? Not who was the best or brightest in the room. People were proud of who they were partnering with and the reasons for these partnerships were inspiring. We didn’t feel diminished, we felt included and connected and, after COVID, I was scared we wouldn’t feel this way again.

When I reflect on what this grant and event meant for YESS, I think about how hard we work to establish policies and processes that educate and innovate the pathways to healing from trauma. For staff, for youth, for community members, or for partners. We belong at the table, amongst our peers, not standing on a soapbox fighting for space. And when I reflect on how the community believed in this before we did and how aligned this collaborative work was with the other recipients, I was again humbled by how transformation really does happen through relationship and collaboration. We are all partners in this system and we learn so much from the cultures of and within collaborations and we are stronger for it, not diminished.  I was inspired and I learned, and I know we will work even harder to live up to these standards. What makes me even happier is that we will bring as many people along the journey as we can. Because padlocks don’t build communities, potlucks do!

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The Impact of Art

Madeline LeBlanc (b.1998) is a playful artist whose practice consists of drawing, dress-up, film, and painting. Creating in the spur of the moment is how she likes to work best. Her mission as an artist is to create good art that invokes a sense of play, curiosity, nostalgia, or wonder. She creates work from commonly found materials (e.g. bedsheets, pencils, common craft paint, etc.) addressing issues of affordability and exclusiveness in the art world. 

Photo courtesy of Madeline LeBlanc

Madeline has exhibited her work at The Art Gallery of Alberta, The Works International Art & Design Festival, Latitude 53, and various arts organisations. 

She was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to attend Mason Gross School of Arts BFA program at Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA) by American painter Marc Handleman and is a 2022 nominee for the Canadian Sobey Art Award by the University of Alberta Art and Design Department, Aiden Rowe. 

What was your experience on your journey from art classes at ARC to professional artist?

The journey has been a series of unexpected twists and turns (in the best way!). Having my start with art through YESS prepared me for the realness of being an artist as I created with and apprenticed the practice of the YESS artist-in-residence [at the time], Allison Tunis. 

Allison Tunis (left) and Madeline LeBlanc (right) in front of Madeline’s painting which will be hand-embroidered by Allison in a collaboration for Allison’s “Untitled Chronic Illness Project 2021-22

Allison and I had many conversations about art over workshops she held at the Armoury. Learning about her experience from being an art grad to slowly becoming a full-time artist was valuable because I got to learn the ins-and-outs of how to successfully pursue art as a career. Allison taught me how to write art applications and through her I became aware of art organisations in the city. I was lucky to have my first art show with YESS and grateful for the opportunity to take professional art courses through the YESS scholarship program. These opportunities gave me the confidence to be independent.

I do not think I would have had an opportunity of stability and resources in my life to practice art had it not been for YESS. Pursuing art at YESS was meaningful because I got to learn to be myself. I felt a level of support and encouragement that I had not experienced before. The opportunity to be something more than I was came with having access to daily meals, shelter, art supplies, and the direction of Allison and the team.

What is one thing you wish the community knew about youth who access YESS?

There’s a lot of hope. 

I think that sometimes when I tell people that I stayed at YESS they feel sorry for me; although, I don’t look at my time there like that. To me I have a better life because I stayed at YESS. It wasn’t a “step-down” it was a steppingstone to me being able to create a better life. I had a team of people believing in me and cheering me on. I’m thankful for the experience. 

What’s in store for the future?

Curtains! I am working on creating my own line of homeware goods. Turning my artwork into curtains, pillows, duvets, colouring books, and wall art. I’m in the middle of prototyping fabrics and designs. It is fun reimagining how my art is interacted with by giving it a function “off- the-wall” so to speak. 

Madeline’s work with curtains and a mock-up of duvet design “Lita”           

We are excited to share the announcement of a limited-edition art print release from former YESS youth, Madi LeBlanc, who has chosen to partner with YESS for a percentage of proceeds from this sale! This partnership not only supports the valuable work that YESS does for the community, but also showcases the talent and creativity of Madi.

The art prints being released feature original artwork created by Madi while she stayed at YESS, showcasing the power of art as a form of healing and self expression. By purchasing one of these limited-edition prints, you not only receive a unique work of art, but also contribute to the ongoing support and empowerment of our youth with proceeds going to both YESS programming and Madi.

There are six prints to choose from printed in a run of ten copies. Each artwork is printed on archival watercolor paper, hand signed by Madi, and contains a certificate of authenticity.

Join us in supporting Madi and the youth who currently access YESS programming by purchasing one of these exclusive prints.

Portfolio | madelineleblanc.com

Shop | makingmadi.com

Instagram | @makingmadi

LinkedIn | Madeline LeBlanc

 

                                          

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Journeys of Change and Empowerment

Being on the Board of Directors for YESS, I have had significant exposure over the past three years to the important work that YESS is doing to support Edmonton’s youth, and every time I hear of new initiatives or specific impacts of their work, I am overwhelmed with passion. With a mission to walk beside traumatized youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration, the opportunity is tremendous, yet complicated.

YESS works collaboratively within a network of care focused on the prevention of youth homelessness. They do this by providing youth with the necessary supports to stabilize their housing, improve their wellbeing, build life skills, connect with community, and avoid re-entry into homelessness. It’s not just about emergency shelter, but so much more. YESS strives to meet youth where they are at and works with them to build a trauma-informed support plan that the youth can understand and own themselves.

Now, outside of my work with YESS, I spend my work life managing change within organizations, and as such have learned a lot about the psychology of how people move through change. It’s most often not straightforward or smooth, and never the same for two people.

I’d like to introduce one model developed by Prosci, a global organization committed to the development and education of change management methodologies and tools. It’s called the ADKAR Model, and it represents the five outcomes every individual needs to achieve for change to be successful. In other words, this model outlines the stages of change that people go through as they adopt change. ADKAR, in its simplest terms, is defined as:

  • The first “A” stands for awareness, meaning understanding what needs to happen is the first step in moving an individual through change.
  • The “D” represents desire, which suggests that the next step in an individual’s change journey is why they should change, otherwise known as “what’s in it for them.”
  • The “K” indicates the stage where knowledge comes into play, and individuals learn how to make a change.
  • The second “A” speaks to an individual’s ability to implement new skills and behaviours towards changing.
  • Last, the “R” represents the reinforcement required to make a change stick, or what’s needed to sustain a change.

I share with you this model because I think it helps understand youth’s journeys, as well as YESS’ approach to support. The idea behind the model is that people need to move through each stage at their own pace, step by step. Each person spends more or less time within each phase based on their own experiences and abilities. Consider the last change you went through—was it exactly the same for others around you?

And what I have learned in my time working with the YESS team is that the path each youth takes is not clear, straight, simple, or short. It is indeed an individual journey, and when we try to leverage a standard one-size-fits-all model, we fall short. We need to make space for our youth to build trust and find safety in working with YESS, allow them to create their own goals, and craft their own plan to achieve those goals.

And here’s where we see impact: YESS has already created a support model that allows youth to be in charge of their own plan, focusing on what is important to them and allowing the right amount of time to process as they need—an approach that takes time and energy beyond what a one-size-fits-all model might require.

So, putting that into the context of the ADKAR Model, YESS is already doing their part to support youth in their individual change journeys towards healing and community integration, allowing them to address their own unique barriers, in their own time.

Part of why I become a Board Trustee is because I hope we, as a community, can do the same. What I’ve learned through stories of youth who access YESS is that the change process is different for everyone, and every time I think I understand these youth’s experiences, I learn something more. Their journeys are evolving, and so are the perceptions of the community. People are starting to understand the impact of trauma-informed structure and processes, and I am honoured to be part of YESS’ contribution to this awareness building.

From the YESS team: It is our belief that if we give youth safe space, consistent and non-judgemental support and teaching, and the time to choose their own path to success, we can prevent further entrenchment into the cycles of trauma and homelessness.

How can we as a community continue to show up and find new ways to support youth in their unique journeys?

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Meeting Youth Where They’re At

Tell us about yourself and your position at YESS.

My name is D’orjay Jackson. I am a Black, queer, gender non-conforming Shaman, country music singer/songwriter, and the Programming Coordinator at YESS. I have been practicing energy medicine for almost 15 years and I am a full mesa carrying Shaman (Munay Ki), Pranic Healer, and I am a Buddhist Practitioner of Rimay tradition within the Vajrayana lineage and carry forward empowerments bestowed upon me by my Guru into my healing and creative practices.

I started volunteering with YESS in 2017 at events and then shifted to offering my Shamanic services to the youth through volunteer programming and have now transitioned to being employed at YESS in the role of Programming Coordinator.

I am responsible for organizing recreational programming as well as cultural programming and supports, so anything from going swimming to connecting with an elder to learn traditional practices, I am the person that organizes and facilitates that. I also do things like navigate other volunteers that want to come and provide services here (like I used to do!), so organizing them, setting up the logistics, and communicating the programming to the staff and the youth. For example, coming up we have a weekly yoga class starting in October, or our pet therapy friends who bring in different animals to connect with the youth every month. I am currently working on setting up regular music programming and some other fun things! I am the one who builds the ARC rec calendar! 

I also work actively with building partnerships and connections with other agencies that work with at-risk youth in the city. I am on the steering committees for YEG Youth Connect and A4 Youth Convention and I also meet with and collaborate with other agencies to work on programming together to create more opportunities for the youth to be in community with each other across the city! I just met with Treaty 8 Urban Youth Agency and we are planning a joint ribbon skirt making class for November!

I provide one-on-one services to the youth here as well so they can access me for mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness support, which can be tailored to what the youth’s needs are in that moment. Sometimes we might do a full shamanic session with a guided journey, other times it’s more dialogue-centered while utilizing divination and writing tools, or teaching the youth about how our brains, bodies, and souls all work together, and supporting them with new tools to be in right relationship with those aspects of themselves. Other times as goals and dream arise in a session, that can turn into me supporting them by helping with connecting to them to other resources we or other agencies provide, helping them in artistic projects (even assisting in writing and applying for grants for said artistic projects) or maybe even just sending an email on their behalf because they are struggling that day, or driving them to an appointment so they are not alone. 

What does it mean to “meet youth where they are at”? How is this philosophy practiced in YESS programs?

To me, meeting youth where they are at means that we are making sure we are creating space for them to feel autonomous, and as much as possible it means following their lead and really making sure that we are working hard at setting down any subconscious and conscious bias that we have around what our youth are experiencing (marginalized intersections of identity, addiction, houselessness, gang activity, violence, and other traumas). Meeting them where they’re at is also understanding that we don’t always know what is best for the youth and ensuring we are creating space to empower them to guide us to what is best for them and then do everything we can to support them to self-actualization. How I apply that at YESS with the youth is being inquisitive and as disarming as possible (sometimes sugar is a great icebreaker!) and seeing how they might feel best supported in that moment. Sometimes they just need to come and have some quiet time in my office or playing a game of pool with them, connecting them with some fun little gemstones and rocks, helping them build a medicine bundle for themselves, or walking them through a guided meditation or breathing exercises. Sometimes just kind of shooting the breeze with them and sharing a joke for a few minutes is all it takes for them to feel seen and valued. Whatever it is, I let them LEAD!

What is something you wish the community knew about youth who access YESS?

I wish the community knew that the youth who access YESS belong and that they are just as important a part of our community as anyone else! I think for me specifically, what I see so much of that I can’t wait to help educate the community on, is how many incredible creative beings we have here! There’s so much talent here raw and refined alike that I just feel is not being showcased fully yet, and so definitely a big goal I have while I’m working here is to share that!

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Spotlight on the Youth Education and Employment Program

The YESS Youth Education and Employment Program provides youth between the ages of 15–24 with skills and knowledge to help them identify career goals, access job-specific training, and learn job readiness skills like cover letter writing and interview skills.

This year, we are so grateful for the support of The Home Depot Canada Foundation and their grant of $150,000 in support of the Youth Education and Employment Program! The Home Depot Canada Foundation is committed to preventing and ending youth homelessness in Canada. Together with community partners across the country, they work to remove barriers, break cycles of inequity, and enable at-risk youth facing homelessness to achieve positive development outcomes and realize their full potential.

 

Staff at the Skyview, South Common, Westmount, and Windermere Home Depot locations with The Home Depot Canada Foundation grant amount of $150,000 in support of YESS

 

We talked to YESS staff members Caitlin Parker, Karley Spelrem, and Juwayriya Abdullahi, who run and support the Youth Education and Employment Program, about what they see youth learn and achieve in this program.

 

Describe your role at YESS!

Caitlin and Juwayriya: We are the Employment Coordinators. We facilitate the Youth Education and Employment Program. Before the program begins, we provide information to youth about what the program entails and complete the intake for each of the youth who are interested. We also reach out and form connections to agencies throughout Edmonton to support the youth during their placements. During the program, we teach youth for three weeks about life skills that can help them obtain employment. An example of this would be discussing employability skills and mental health. After this takes place, each of the youth complete the 12-week employment/practicum portion of the program. We support both the youth and the employers throughout these weeks. Finally, we work with the Transitional Worker to form a plan for what comes next after each youth has completed the entire 15-week program.

Karley: I am the Transitional Worker at YESS where I work with our Supportive Housing Program to transition youth out of our group homes and into independence. I also work with community youth as well as Children Services youth to transition them into our group homes. I support youth in the Youth Education and Employment Program with their transition out of the program, whether that is getting hired onto to work full-time or finding alternative job placements that work with their schedules.

 

Describe the Youth Education and Employment Program.

The Youth Education and Employment Program is a 15-week program that assists youth between the ages of 15-24 with building skills to enter the workforce. The first three weeks entails in-class lessons with the Employment Coordinators where the youth learn life skills such as resume building and how to be successful in an interview. Following that, the youth are placed with an employer for 12 weeks while being provided with the support needed to ensure they are successful at their work placements. Finally, a transition plan is created to provide the youth with a clear path for what their life will look like after the employment program is complete.

 

What are the training/opportunities/outlets that this program provides for youth who access YESS?

The Youth Education and Employment Program provides youth with three weeks of in-class training, followed by 12 weeks of work experience at a place of employment. Youth are trained in basic safety courses such as First Aid and food safety, as well as employment-specific training by obtaining licensing, that is required by employers at their work placements. Youth are led through different courses during the initial 3 weeks which include employment skills, mental health, sexual awareness, and finances. The program supports youth in their placements of choice by seeking to eliminate barriers that might cause inconsistency.

 

How is this program part of the YESS mission to walk beside youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration?

Within our Youth Education and Employment Program we provide youth with training on mental health, relationships, boundaries, advocacy, health and safety, basic hygiene, cooking skills, etc. We prioritize the first three weeks to class time where we enhance each of these skills before entering the workplace. We also ensure the youth are housed or have housing set up prior to attending the program to eliminate any barriers while in the work field. With this wraparound support from Employment Coordinators and Transitional Workers, we are able to ensure the success of each youth after the eight-week mark of completing our employment program.

 

What is one thing you wish the community knew about youth who access YESS?

Juwayriya: The youth who access YESS did not choose to experience the barriers they face. They are survivors who are fighting to break the cycle of violence and trauma they have been entrenched in. They are inspiring because of their motivation to help improve their circumstances. They are resilient because they are persistent in their resolve despite setbacks.

The youth at YESS have experienced trauma throughout their lives, yet they are tenacious in their pursuit of healing, community integration, and reaching their full potential in life.

 


 

Thank you so much to the Youth Education and Employment Program work experience partners!

Atlantic Fence
Bottle Depot Windermere (Windermere, 3515 Allan Drive)
Bottle Depot Winterburn (West End, 21410 100 Ave)
Evergreen Recycling
FIND Edmonton
Habitat for Humanity – ReStore North
Habitat for Humanity – ReStore Sherwood Park
Habitat for Humanity – ReStore South
Habitat for Humanity – ReStore West
Little Caesars (McConachie Edmonton)
Pita Pit (104 Street NW, Whyte Ave)
YESS Kitchen

The Youth Education and Employment Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy

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