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Preparing Youth for Adulthood

Kiana & Bear - Tk'emlups - PLAY

In a Secwepemc community in British Columbia, youth have access to a Right To Play program that builds their motivation, skills, and independence as they move into adulthood and employment.

“We have gone with Employability as one of our main pillars (program objectives), so we have been trying to focus on activities that work around that,” explains Paige, one of the Community Mentors. “We usually have our meetings every week on Monday night.”

Paige is a co-Community Mentor with Evan, and together they provide one-on-one support and workshops for high school-aged youth on varying topics, such as resume writing.

One participant, Stevie, is 16 years old and already has a part-time job at a gas station, WHIMS training, and her Learner’s permit. “I feel like I got a lot more information about resumes and the workplace from this program rather than at school. We do learn about that stuff [at school], but it’s always rushed over and they don’t make sure you know it,” she shares. “I feel more prepared for the workplace than I did when I learned in school. When I went to [the program], it gave me more knowledge on the resume and it made me realize I had no clue how good my resume actually was. Whereas at school, I didn’t have one clue what to put on my resume!”

"I feel more prepared for the workplace than I did when I learned in school"

Paige and Evan have even created a points & reward system to help rally youth’s motivation to participate in the program. “It’s a bit hard for myself – I’m not very good at dedicating work to something,” another youth participant, 16-year-old Bear, reflects. “But with [this program], there’s an end reward. It makes me a little bit more dedicated than I would be. Definitely, with cooking – it’s an important skill to build, but on my own time I’m not sure I would have dedicated myself to learning that skill.”

“The value is in preparing them for adulthood, essentially,” Evan says of the program. “So that we have less youth who go into their twenties without a driver’s license. Less youth who never had a summer job. Less youth who don’t know how to cook a single good meal. There’s far, far too many young Indigenous people going into adulthood and then seeing that hindsight far too late.”

"My independence kind of just thrives in the program"

“My independence kind of just thrives in the program,” Stevie shares. “I just notice that at work, I’m more independent, at school I’m able to do work a lot faster.” In reflecting on how the program has supported these outcomes, Stevie describes the cooking workshops. “They give me ingredients for cooking, and they don’t expect a due date. It gives me that motivation to be independent and to cook whatever it is within a few days. I’ll plan my nights or my weeks,” she says. “I feel it changed my mindset into thinking about my future and thinking about the skills that I need at certain times in my life, like cooking. It’s really helped me with time management, trying to figure out the things in my life that are important now rather than in the future.”

Paige and Evan also tailor their support to individual youth needs, for example by building a plan with youth to work on program activities. Bear describes how he might apply the time management and independence skills he’s learning through the program in the future. “With university or college, say you need to do a big essay and you just have an endpoint, it would be important for you to set specific times each day on when to work on it and when to stop instead of just waiting until the endpoint and doing it all in less than a week,” he says. “So I think [the program] is building my ability to get into a routine more.”

“Whether explicit or implicit, we’re trying to give them opportunities to practice with a wide array of skills,” Evan explains. “Funny enough, one of my issues [when I was younger] was not having a license. And in hindsight, if I had a program like this that could have helped me nail it – day 1, turning 16, that would have been great. That’s the sort of thing that we hope to be able to offer.”