Success Stories: Youth and Students

The lives of Canadians are touched on a daily basis by ESDC and its portfolio partners. These success stories are about Canadians who have changed their own lives, or those of others, through the Student Financial Assistance and other initiatives.

For education, save early and finish ahead

View the video for the “For education, save early and finish ahead” success story.

Ottawa, Ontario - Annelise Duval grew up in a home where education was very important. Now a clinical dietician and Canadian university graduate, Annelise credits her education to a learning environment, and a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), which her parents started.

"There's no question about it. If my parents hadn't put money aside for my education I wouldn't be where I am today," says Annelise. Her father, Allan Brown, who went back to university later in life to get a second degree, agrees.

"Our financial planner talked to us about RESPs and explained how if we put money aside in an RESP, the federal government would put in a 20 per cent matching grant. So that was a real incentive for us to save," says Allan. "We wanted our children to have the same kind of opportunities that we had, so when they left high school, if they were interested in a career, they wouldn't be held back financially."

Allan is referring to the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG). For every dollar put into an RESP, the Government of Canada adds between 20 and 40 cents in grant money on the first $500, depending on your family income. Then, you will get 20 cents on every dollar you contribute, up to a lifetime maximum of $7,200 per child. Families on a limited income who receive the National Child Benefit Supplement and whose child was born after December 31, 2003, can also receive the Canada Learning Bond which provides $500 to help families start saving. Those who qualify can also get an extra $100 every year up to age 15, if they continue to qualify. This means your child could get up to $2,000 in total.

"Parents feel good when their children can eventually stand on their own. You don't have to worry about looking after them, because they're grown up and financially independent," says Allan.

You, your family, or friends can put money into your child's education savings plan. Consider contributing to a child's RESP as a gift for special occasions as well as for the holiday season.

For more information about education savings incentives, call 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) toll-free, visit your nearest Service Canada Centre or visit CanLearn.ca.

Working with Children with Special Needs – A Special Experience

Montréal, Quebec — For two consecutive summers, Jess Lavin, a 22-year-old psychology student, has been hired to work at Camp Aim, a recreational and therapeutic program for children with complex medical, physical, and cognitive conditions. Funding through the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program has made it possible for the camp to hire Jess, among other students, to work one-on-one with the children under the guidance of a team of professionals.

CSJ provides funding to non-profit organizations, the public sector, and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, to hire full-time students between the ages of 15 and 30 who intend to return to school the next academic year. The program is designed to focus on local priorities, while achieving tangible results for both students and their communities.

Jess hopes to work in the field of psychology, specializing in childhood and adolescent development. “My life has been enhanced and completely changed,” she says of her experience at Camp Aim. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to work here.” She considers the hands-on experience she has gained to be valuable, to develop not only personally, but also professionally.

Camp creator and director Yaffi Ulman says that working at the camp provides “a great learning opportunity for students.” She applies each year for CSJ funding to hire high school and university students with an interest in special education to work hands on with the children, and she is convinced the camp would not have survived without CSJ funding assistance. “It has been a tremendous help to us,” she declares.

Canada Summer Jobs is an important part of the Government’s long-term Youth Employment Strategy that helps young people get the information, skills and work experience they need to make a successful transition to the workplace. Starting in 2011, the Government has permanently increased the budget for CSJ by $10 million. The additional funding will create as many as 3 500 new jobs for students in the summer of 2011, benefiting communities and strengthening local economies across Canada.

Student Helps Children Take Pleasure in Reading

Rapid City, Manitoba — Carissa Armstrong is a student at Brandon University. Her goal is to become a teacher at the elementary or middle-school level. What better way to gain relevant experience than to work with children in the summer months? The Rapid City Regional Library was able to hire her to run its reading program thanks to funding support from the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program.

CSJ is a Government of Canada initiative that provides funding to help employers create summer job opportunities for students between the ages of 15 and 30. It is designed to focus on local priorities, while achieving tangible results for both students and their communities.

Carissa learned early on to establish the rules and quickly came to “read” (no pun intended!) the children in terms of what worked for them and what didn’t. She says her summer student placement gave her the opportunity to “learn a lot through hands-on experience.” When the reading program was no longer running, the library hired Carissa as a casual helper one night a week – so she was able to benefit from additional experience and continue to earn money beyond her initial CSJ placement.

Librarian Shirley Martin says the purpose of the reading program is to get children interested in reading for fun, not just for homework, with activities like games, crafts, singing and water sponge fights. She notes that many of the children’s families would otherwise not have been able to afford some of these extra-curricular activities. Shirley says thanks to the financial support from Canada Summer Jobs, the library was able to hire “a very special employee, and give the children in our community a very fun summer.”

Canada Summer Jobs is an important part of the government’s long-term Youth Employment Strategy that helps young people get the information, skills and work experience they need to make a successful transition to the workplace. Starting in 2011, the government has permanently increased the budget for CSJ by $10 million. The additional funding will create as many as 3,500 additional jobs for students in the summer of 2011, benefiting communities and strengthening local economies across Canada.

Summer Job Benefits Student and Women’s Shelter

Regina, Saskatchewan — Joanna Blair, a 22-year-old psychiatric nursing student, was able to help women and children fleeing domestic violence through her work as a Canada Summer Jobs Program (CSJ) student with the Regina Transition House.

Regina Transition House is a women’s shelter operated by the Regina Transition Women’s Society in Regina, Saskatchewan. Since 1976, the shelter has provided service to 13,000 women and children—an average of about 400 people each year. In 2010, the shelter wanted to hire a summer student to develop a recreational program for children of families fleeing domestic violence. As in past years, it received funding through CSJ.

Joanna already knew about the shelter and its services through the outreach coordinator at Regina Transition House. The shelter hired her as Director of Fun and Games to provide activities for the children staying there.

A summer job organizing recreational activities for children may sound like a dream job to some; but a shelter presents a challenging and unique environment in which to work. Maria Hendrika, Regina Transition Women’s Society Executive Director, points out that “most of the children in shelter have witnessed abuse of their mothers, and many have been victims of abuse or neglect at home. They often exhibit challenging behaviours and may have special needs.”

Joanna’s job entailed much more than providing recreational activities: she had the opportunity to model constructive conflict resolution skills in her day-to-day work. “Joanna hit the ground running,” says Maria, who credits her with the communication skills and personal warmth that helped her to connect quickly with the shelter residents. “The children’s faces lit up the moment they saw her,” she recalls.

Joanna received ongoing supervision and feedback, first aid training, an understanding of factors contributing to the cycle of family violence, and learned best practices in intervention. She credits her experience at the shelter with letting her build on the skills she needs for her career in psychiatric nursing.

As she puts it, working at the shelter through CSJ has been an unforgettable experience. Joanna admires the mothers for their “remarkable qualities, and their strength and bravery.” But it is the children who hold a special place in her heart. “I think that their sense of wonder and spirit will always be with me,” she says.

Joanna wants to continue making strides personally and professionally. She is completing her studies and continues to work at the shelter part-time as a valued member of the staff. This is a testament to her skills, which she continues to build on as she pursues her chosen career.

CSJ is a federal government initiative that provides funding for non-profit organizations, the public sector, and small businesses with less than 50 employees to hire students between the ages of 15 and 30. It is designed to focus on local priorities, while achieving tangible results for both students and their communities.

Tyendinaga youth get new start in life

Tyendinaga, Ontario — An initiative delivered through a local independent high school is making a real difference in the lives of Aboriginal youth facing barriers to employment such as a troubled family life, alcohol and drug abuse, or learning disabilities. The First Nations Technical Institute, located on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, has been quietly delivering this highly successful employability skills project for Aboriginal youth, thanks in part to funding under the federal Skills Link program.

Skills Link focuses on helping young people who face barriers to employment such as Aboriginal youth, youth living in rural and remote areas, and youth who have dropped out of high school. The program supports them in developing basic and advanced employment skills through a coordinated approach that can help them find and keep a job.

St. Lawrence College in Brockville is responsible for developing and administering the Tyendinaga employability skills project. The college hires the First Nations Technical Institute on a contract basis to deliver the 16-week program to Aboriginal youth aged 16 to 30 years. Classes total 30 hours per week and are delivered by First Nations instructors, trainers, supervisors, and other staff. Participants develop a broad range of skills and knowledge and each takes part in a work -experience placement.

Ken Sparks is a field coordinator with the First Nations Technical Institute. He coordinates employment placements for students and regularly follows up with them. “Placements are based on individual needs and experience,” he explains. “Some students find work in the retail sector, while others go into trades such as welding and construction.”

Ken reports a high rate of success in the program. “Some students have achieved full credits for their high school certificate through the First Nations Technical Institute,” he says, adding, “The youth in our community are making new breakthroughs and are able to get second chances that are perhaps not available through other avenues.”

He tells of one student, Dakota Bardy, who obtained the two high school credits he was missing and now attends flight school. “He wants to pursue a career in aviation and has already taken his first solo flight.”

Dakota, who is now in college, offers his own personal testimonial.

“The program has given me the chance to better myself as a student and person. [It] would have been difficult without the help of this program. It was enjoyable, as well, and gave me additional experience in a job environment.”

Youth employment programs are part of the Government of Canada’s broader strategy to create an educated, skilled and flexible workforce. The Government highlighted its commitment to this strategy in Canada’s Economic Action Plan. A key element of the Plan includes increasing and improving opportunities available to Canadian workers through skills development. To learn more about Canada’s Economic Action Plan, visit www.actionplan.gc.ca.

Skills Link—A stepping stone towards a better future

Toronto, Ontario — Adrian (not his real name) was a shy, introverted youth who moved to Toronto after experiencing upheaval within his family. He had dropped out of high school and had no real employment prospects. Determined to transform his life for the better, Adrian applied for and was accepted into the Youth Succeeding in Employment Program (YSEP), which is funded through the Government of Canada’s Skills Link program. The program was delivered by Eva’s Phoenix, a shelter for homeless youth where Adrian stayed while he participated in the YSEP program.

Skills Link focuses on helping youth who face barriers to employment, including Aboriginal youth, youth living in rural and remote areas and youth who have dropped out of high school. The program supports them in developing basic and advanced employment skills through a coordinated approach that can help them find and keep a job.

Adrian became actively involved in the YSEP program and put his efforts into career exploration and job-search assignments. During that time, he changed from a reserved, quiet young man into an outgoing, confident one who showed natural leadership abilities and helped bring other youth together. He did a placement in a well-known comic book store, where he continued to work after completing the program. He also moved from the shelter into his own housing.

Todd Hiuser, Manager of Employment Services at Eva’s Phoenix, says that Adrian experienced a major transformation in his life. He worked at getting fit and eventually found a job with CrossFit, a community-based wellness centre where he helped others get into shape.

In 2011, as part of a staff exchange, he spent six weeks in a remote village in Peru where he performed grassroots community work. “He is a totally different person from when he first walked through our doors,” says Todd. “It was truly an amazing transformation and it was great to be a part of it.”

Today, Adrian is still employed at CrossFit, where he is training to become an assistant manager. He has also applied to Humber College’s two-year Fitness Lifestyle Management program.

Adrian has never looked back and recognizes his own accomplishments. “I’m proud of myself for doing something I thought I couldn’t,” he says. “It shed a new light for me and made me realize I had more to offer. The whole experience of YSEP was a stepping stone for my future.”

Skills Link is part of the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy (YES). YES helps youth, particularly those facing barriers to employment, obtain career information, develop employment skills, find jobs and stay employed. Economic Action Plan 2012 proposes an additional $50 million over two years to enhance YES so that more young people can gain tangible skills and experience.

To learn more about Canada’s Economic Action Plan, visit www.actionplan.gc.ca.

Skills Link Helps Youth Build a Brighter Future

Welland, Ontario – When Niagara Peninsula Homes selected Stephen Cecchin as a participant in their youth employment project to work as an apprentice builder, he was given the tools he needed to build a better life. Stephen was able to take advantage of this project thanks to support from the federal Skills Link program.

Skills Link funds youth employment projects that help youth such as single parents, Aboriginal youth, young persons with disabilities, recent immigrants, youth living in rural and remote areas, and high school dropouts, to obtain the knowledge and develop the skills and experience needed to find a job, or the confidence to return to school.

After high school, Stephen worked in seasonal and part-time minimum-wage jobs that did not offer the kind of skills training he needed to start a career. “When I began my apprenticeship, he says, “I was impressed with the value of this project and the help it gave to local youth.”

Youth participating in Niagara Peninsula Homes’ employment project received one-on-one coaching and attended group-based workshops that focused on developing skills such as communication, teamwork, and job search techniques. At the completion of the program, Stephen continued to work with the company and was later offered an apprenticeship position with an electrical contractor. He said his involvement with the Skills Link program equipped him with the skills he needed to move forward and create a brighter future for himself and his family.

Youth employment programs are part of the Government of Canada’s broader strategy to create an educated, skilled and flexible workforce. The Government highlighted its commitment to this strategy in Canada’s Economic Plan. A key element of the Plan includes increasing and improving opportunities available to Canadian workers through skills development. For more information, visit www.actionplan.gc.ca.

Creating an Environmental Buzz

Kingston, Ontario – When Dan Hendry found out about the YMCA and YWCA Grants for Youth Internships program, he decided to take fate into his own hands and presented the Youth Eco program to the Kingston Sustainability Centre. As a result, he became their first intern.

“I have been a big believer in the youth internship program; I have recommended the program to my friends and probably to 100 other people looking to get experience in the environmental field,” explained Dan. “This program gave me the break I needed.”

During his internship, Dan worked to inform his community about sustainable actions and practices around waste, water, energy and food, and how everyone could make simple changes in their daily lives to live in a more environmentally friendly way.

He initiated an environmentally focused youth speech competition. The two winners spoke at an Earth Hour event, which was attended by over 1,000 people. Dan also participated in a series of live radio and television interviews, hoping to encourage the community to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle.

“Dan Hendry is an engaging, energetic, committed young man,” said Randy J. Cluff, Director of the Kingston Sustainability Centre. “He understands the reality that change is a journey, not an event. His efforts created a significant buzz in the city about our organization and the programs we offer.”

Through Canada's Economic Action Plan, the federal government has announced plans to provide a one-time grant of $15 million to the YMCA and YWCA to place unemployed youth aged 15-30 years in internships with not-for-profit and community service organizations, namely on projects that have an environmental focus. These positions, offered in a wide range of organizations, will help young Canadians learn the skills required to gain and sustain future employment within the sector.

“Through this position, I have been able to gain solid skills,” stated Dan. “I also developed many relationships here in Kingston. I’m convinced that my experience here will enhance my chances of finding work in my field in the Kingston area. Overall, it has been an amazing experience.”

More skilled than ever thanks to the YMCA and YWCA Grant

Hamilton, Ontario - Leah Serafini, a 22 year old who recently graduated from the University of Guelph, was looking for her first full-time job when she found out about the Youth Eco Internship Program on the Hamilton’s YWCA website. Soon after, thanks to the YMCA and YWCA Grant for Youth Internships, she was offered an internship at Green Venture, a non-profit environmental organization which promotes sustainable living and public education in the Hamilton area.

“As part of my responsibilities at Green Venture, I give tours of their demonstration home called “EcoHouse,” which shows people how they can live more sustainably in their homes with a variety of water and energy saving technologies. I also give curriculum-based tours to school groups, complete with age appropriate activities,” explained Leah. She also represents Green Venture at various public events, where she offers tips on how to live more sustainably to the public.

Her internship at Green Venture allowed Leah to gain many skills such as managing and organizing several tasks at once, while prioritizing different projects. She also improved her interpersonal skills and her ability to interact with a wide variety of individuals including the general public, children, staff members and board members. Moreover, she developed computer skills such as publishing, editing and website creation and she learned how valuable flexibility is in a work setting.

“Leah has matured rapidly in an office and education setting and has developed some hands-on skills. She should have no trouble moving into the environmental field, as she has garnered some experience in areas such as energy, water, transportation, green gardening, and waste,” said Michael Gemmel, manager of Green Venture’s EcoHouse.

“In these hard economic times, finding a job for a recent graduate can be very challenging and the YEIP program gave me the chance to work for an organization that is doing so many beneficial things for the city of Hamilton and beyond,” added Leah.

Through Canada's Economic Action Plan, the federal government has announced plans to provide a one-time grant of $15 million to the YMCA and YWCA to place unemployed youth aged 15-30 years in internships with not-for-profit and community service organizations, namely on projects that have an environmental focus. These positions, offered in a wide range of organizations, will help young Canadians learn the skills required to gain and sustain future employment within the sector.

Perfect Internship for a Teacher in Training

Kingston, Ontario , September 7, 2010 — During her internship with the Kingston Sustainability Centre, Katie McKenzie had the amazing chance to gain more than experience. Thanks to the Youth Eco Internship Program, she is getting closer to her dream of being a primary school teacher.

Through the YMCA and YWCA Grant for Youth Internships, the Kingston Sustainability Centre delivers a platform for collaboration between the City of Kingston, local education institutions, private business, not-for-profit organizations and volunteers. Visitors can learn and understand solutions to become more sustainable in their daily activities and choices.

Hoping to teach at the local school board, her internship gave her the opportunity to put her teaching skills to use in developing and implementing curriculum-based education programs focusing on sustainability. She created programs and events centered on the message of change as well as attractions for people to come into the centre and engage with the displays and information that are provided.

Katie also had the opportunity to lead and host three Bachelor of Education students for a three-week alternative placement. The four of them formed an efficient team that came up with powerful, interactive displays to use as learning tools.

“Katie understands the process of education and the effect it has on changing behaviours”, said Randy J. Cuff, Director of the Centre. “Her personal life choices about being sustainable arm her with a desire to pass along this thinking to her classes as she seeks full-time work in the educational sector.”

“I feel I can confidently implement sustainability education into a daily classroom program, whether it be recycling systems, vermicomposting, or engaging and encouraging children to take sustainable steps at school and at home,” stated Katie. “The knowledge and connections I have made in the community are what will help me the most when I finish my internship.”

The Youth Eco Internship Program places unemployed youth across Canada, aged 15 to 30, into paid internship opportunities within the non-profit and community services sector in Canada with a focus on the environment, community and women's services. The program is available to non-graduates, high school graduates and post-secondary graduates. These positions, offered in a wide range of organizations, will help young Canadians learn the skills required to gain and sustain future employment within the sector.

A Win-Win Internship for a Wildlife Biologist

Victoria, British Columbia, September 7, 2010 - Amy Medve believes she is well on her way to achieving her goal of becoming a wildlife biologist, thanks to the YMCA and YWCA Grant for Youth Internships. She applied for funding through the Youth Eco Internship Program and then approached the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary in Victoria, B.C., for an internship.

Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary was established in 1975 to conserve an urban lake and surrounding wetlands, as well as the Garry Oak Forest. The wetlands and forests surrounding Swan Lake provide habitat for numerous common and endangered floral and faunal species.

As part of her internship, the 25 year old has diverse responsibilities ranging from habitat restoration, invasive plant removal, wildlife inventories and breeding bird research. Because the sanctuary is located in the heart of an urban area, she is also able to interact with the public and work with school groups and naturalists to educate them about the surrounding environment. Her main focus, however, is centred on breeding bird research and evaluating the types of birds that are utilizing the park for breeding.

“There are lots of challenges associated with my job, which is why this experience has been so successful in my progression as a biologist. I have learned skills that are vital in becoming a wildlife biologist and I have learned from experts in varying fields of environmental science,” Amy said. “The amazing thing about Swan Lake is the diversity of people that work, volunteer or simply enjoy the site and from them I have countless memories to enjoy and look back on.”

Her employer, June Pretzer, Site Manager of the Sanctuary, could not be more delighted that Amy approached her about the YWCA Program. She believes that Amy’s focus on breeding bird research has been equally beneficial to them, revealing much needed information on the avian species at the lake which contribute to the Sanctuary’s mandate of increased environmental stewardship.

“Amy brought the freshness that only youth pursuing a career with complete enthusiasm could bring. She has raised our awareness of rare and endangered species, contributed opinions that advised the development of the Lake Habitat Management Plan and created a new link with regular site birders,” June said.

June believes that through the internship, Amy has become more confident in herself and in her ability as a biologist. Amy couldn’t agree more. “I will take away from this internship my deepest belief that I will be successful and will become an integral part of my community within the field of environmental sciences,” she said.

The Youth Internship Program places unemployed youth across Canada, aged 15 to 30, into paid internship opportunities within the non-profit and community services sector in Canada with a focus on the environment, community and women’s services. The program is available to non-graduates, high school graduates and post-secondary graduates. These positions, offered in a wide-range of organizations, will help young Canadians learn the skills required to gain and sustain future employment within the sector.

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