Young leaders – they will become the leaders of the future. That was my first thought as I entered the PLLC as a first-year student. 8 months down the road, I am still thinking about this concept of a ‘young leader’. Is it someone who leads a successful team? How about someone who leads a new startup company? Or perhaps it is someone who can lead their own life?
I decided to stretch my horizon by volunteering my time at the Youth Empowerment Support Services (YESS). As an Edmonton-based non-profit agency, they provide emergency shelter, longer term residential housing, support programs, and individual guidance to youth who are in crisis and experiencing homelessness and ensure that their individual needs are met.
Two aspects of my time with YESS include:
a) Time spent on programs aimed to fundraise for the youth
I have had the opportunity to help with a majority of projects during the summer. Recycle for Youth, Community Garden, Cut-A-Thon, and Color Run. These activities were exciting; I met new individuals and developed a relationship with the community. However, I was volunteering with people similar to myself – we were eager, passionate, and had a similar goal and understanding on volunteering. Though fundraising is vital for not-for-profits, I found it difficult to challenge myself in this area.
b) Time spent with the Youth
I was challenged to a great deal in this second portion. I honestly believe, the youth I spend time with, are strong and resilient individuals. I have met youth who know exactly their destinations, but I have also met youth who require guidance to chase their dreams. This sounds familiar – quite like the very university students attending the UofA. I have noticed that youth at-risk are sometimes viewed with a stigma within our community. Working with the youth first hand, I am able to see just the simple impact of conversing and doing activities with them. Society tells their youth, attending Post-Secondary Education is the key to being a leader. I strongly disagree with this point. I believe that we, as a society, must be able to tell our youth that they are all leaders in their own lives. This is when we can really succeed in empowerment.
Throughout my time, I was asked: “why are you here?”. My goal is not to simply execute my definition of helping, rather, it is also to expand my perspectives and understanding of societal by interacting with a dynamic range of youth. I am here to empower the youth. We often forget the power we have at our fingertips to ignite change. So, is there anyone there? As we advance through our journey and look back, I want us to say, “Yes, there is.”
So, here I am, and there is no other place I would want to be. This is Part I of the story, as empowerment is not just a local concept. Stay tuned for the next part!
– A short letter from Shelby Chau.