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Virtual Environments Bring New Opportunities for HWDSB’s Focus on Youth Program

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Virtual Environments Bring New Opportunities for HWDSB’s Focus on Youth Program

On Monday, July 13, 2020, the HWDSB Focus on Youth 2020 program (FOY) began. Since then, the student employees have had the chance to engage with and learn from an Olympian, as well as make valuable contributions to their communities.

FOY is a personal and professional development program in which student employees support Community Agency programs, HWDSB Summer Learning programs in virtual classrooms and create planters for seniors in care homes in the Senior Connectedness program.

Week one, beginning on July 13, was the FOY training week and this year the virtual environment opened up opportunities to hear from guest speakers who may not have, in normal circumstances, been able to make the trip to visit and speak in person.

Sami Jo Small shows her Olympic Gold Medal to the Focus on Youth team.

One of the special guests included Canadian Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, Gold Medal-Winning Goalie, Sami Jo Small. After her talk, students walked away from the session having learned about the importance of being proud of what they do and who they are.

“Our training week was awesome! The student employees were thoroughly engaged and worked well as a team,” said Emily Lackie, Program Monitor for HWDSB’s Focus on Youth. “We had amazing special guests teaching our team about goal setting, breaking barriers, social media, positive attitude, and inclusiveness.”

Sam Demma was the first speaker to kick off the training week. A natural storyteller, Demma shared his life story with the students, the challenges he has faced and how he overcame those barriers with small consistent actions.

Other speakers included Chris Vollum and Mihai Raducanu.

Discussing social media accountability, Chris Vollum asked students to consider and explore their personal branding on social media to ensure it reflects who they are. Closing the training week, Mihai Raducanu spoke with students about self-awareness, self-improvement and how their attitude towards friendships, everyday life, education and work can help them to grow.

In addition to the guest speakers, student employees received training on health and safety, equity, well-being, privacy and completed workshops to contribute to their personal and professional development.

Planters decorated by student employees in the Senior Connectedness Program.

“Our staff team prepared student employees to problem solve, manage conflicts, and program/lesson plan,” said Lackie. “Training week made our students excited to start their community placements!”

The first week of placements for this year’s program began on Monday, July 20, 2020. Students in the Senior Connectedness program have already taken great strides in brightening the days of community members as they created succulent planters this week, which will be delivered to senior homes.

“The students are looking forward to making a difference for those in the community and after the first week of placements, we are already seeing their leadership skills growing,” said Sierra Pellizzari, Program Lead for Focus on Youth.

FOY has been running since 2009 with funding provided by the Ministry of Education.

Updated on Friday, July 24, 2020.
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