Over the past year, the CCYP has grown tenfold. From new partnerships and programs to our Youth Council and Fellowships. Get ready for the next level of our 21 Questions for 2021 series! Throughout February, we will be introducing you to our fellows who have graciously found time to put aside their research to share a bit about themselves and their work with you. Tune in weekly, you just might learn something new.
What's your name?
What are three words that you would use to describe yourself?
Disarming, light-hearted, curious.
What is your most played song right now?
K - Jaden Smith
What is your educational background?
Honours Bachelor of Arts (Political Science/Art History) - University of Toronto
Can you speak about your advocacy work/project?
My advocacy is focused on a strengths-based approach to employment for youth with lived/living experience of homelessness. I’m curious about what a strengths-based model would look like for young people in Toronto.
What sparked your passion for it?
My passion for this area is 100% tied to my own experiences with homelessness as a young person. I was introduced to peer support when I first started accessing services and it was a type of employment I never could have imagined for myself, yet it’s perfect for my strengths, interests and goals. I’ve learned everything I know on the job and I think others could benefit from similar opportunities.
Why do you think this is important in the Canadian context?
Canada struggled with youth employment and Ontario in particular has had a shaky record of giving young people meaningful and sustainable long-term employment. In a multicultural context, it’s important that our systems are tailored to the individual and/or group it is working for.
What does opportunity look like within your advocacy work?
The opportunity presented right now is a chance to re-evaluate our approach to employment engagement for youth that are overrepresented in the system and possibly misunderstood as a collective. The opportunity is for youth and service providers to weigh in on what a revised employment model could look like.
How can other Canadian youth get involved?
Youth can have a say by participating in our survey later in Spring 2021!
About the CCYP Fellowship Program:
What made you want to get involved in the CCYP Fellowship Program?
I’ve always wanted an opportunity to immerse myself in my own research project and the Fellowship Program is giving me exactly that! I’ve really fallen in love with research the past few years and am excited to have a go at it myself!
What do you hope to bring to the CCYP Fellowship Program?
I bring a lot of enthusiasm to the topic I’m researching and to the role itself. I love knowledge mobilization and sharing insights and experiences everywhere I go.
What professional relationships are you hoping to establish?
I’m hoping to establish relationships with employers and community members who are willing to hire youth with lived experience of homelessness and mentors who can help me help them.
What do you hope to accomplish during your fellowship? What does impact mean to you?
My main focus is creating awareness about this topic outside of the homelessness and housing sectors. I believe taking a strengths-based approach to youth employment would be a game-changer. For me, impact looks like organizations creating more long-term and stable jobs for youth to work in a non-stigmatizing environment.
Can you share with us an organization or program that you think others in youth workforce development/employment should be made aware of?
Check out the Housing Outreach Project-Collaborative (HOP-C) for the latest research on wrap-around approaches for recently-housed youth!
Which of your previous work/volunteer experiences had the most impact on your current advocacy work?
I think working on the HOP-C project has had the most impact on my advocacy. It was the very first research project I worked on and I learned everything I know from the people on that team who recognized me beyond my label of ‘formerly homeless youth’.
How has that impacted the person you are today?
I’ve been able to step into my identity as an entrepreneur and as a leader in the community. Being a peer changed how I viewed the world and my place in it, and now I know that challenging the status quo can actually be a really good thing.
Recognizing the importance of building a community network, how has mentorship supported you throughout your professional development thus far?
I’ve had many mentors in my life so far, the first when I was just 7 years old. Having mentors shows you someone cares about supporting you and is willing to invest time in your development personally and professionally, I owe a lot of what I know to the many mentors who took a chance on me - I’m trying to give them a great return on investment!
Who is an individual/figure that you look up to?
I’ve been fortunate to have had many strong women in my life and could never pick just one. However, if you’re a go-getting, multi-tasking entrepreneur and/or parent, I’m probably looking at you in awe and soaking in inspiration that says you can have it all.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
No matter what your message is, chances are someone is hearing it for the first time, so even if it’s obvious to you, it’s important to continue repeating your message because you don’t know who it will have an impact on.
Can you share three fun facts about yourself?
I have 2 pet bunnies (SIggy & Ash!)
I have a small business called Lived Experience Lab (launch to come)
I went to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Can you share a goal you have for 2021?
I want to launch my business before the end of the year and do more speaking engagements about my story with peer support and youth homelessness.