Youth Activism in North Oakville Attracts Additional Funds to Expand OKN’s Halton Youth Initiative

By Siobhan Laverdiere, North Oakville Youth Initiative Project Coordinator

Over the past year and a half since the North Oakville Youth Development Council (NOYDC) started meeting, the young members have made great strides. They have raised awareness of the importance of valuing youth in the community. They have demonstrated the significance of meaningful and supportive relationships between youth and adults. And have advocated for providing safe spaces for youth to gather.

At the NOYDC, youth in grades 7 to 10 collaborate with adult allies from community organizations. They play an active role on the council; not only sharing their thoughts and ideas, but also guiding decision making to set and meet objectives.

It is because of this amazing, community-based youth activism, that Our Kids Network (OKN) recently received a three-year Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to expand the Halton Youth Initiative. This new funding will help to engage and involve more Halton youth in the North Oakville area and to broaden the scope of the initiative to Acton, Aldershot, and Milton through the OKN Community Hubs.

The Halton Youth Initiative Youth Asset-Builder, Lily Viggiano, and I will be working closely with all four communities to develop and support youth-led activities and provide opportunities for meaningful relationships with adult allies. Another important objective will be to ensure that youth have the experience of participating in positive change within their own neighbourhoods.

We’re very excited to be a part of raising in youth voice in each of these communities!

NOYDC Building on Success in 2019

In 2018 the NOYDC focussed on connecting and engaging the community and gathering information from youth on hangout spaces:

  • Youth Talks: Hear Us Out a youth-led event that provided the opportunity for youth to speak out and connect with adults.
  • North Oakville Youth Survey: 94 youth participated to provide the Town of Oakville with their ideas and suggestions on youth hangout spaces
  • Family & Youth Skate Night: This event promoted awareness about the importance of a caring neighbourhood for youth to thrive. The Oakville Beaver covered this event!

In 2019, the NOYDC plans to build on their past success and to continue work on their three key objectives:

  1. To advise on, and help to increase, more unstructured hangout space for North Oakville youth
  2. Build meaningful relationships between adults and youth, so youth can feel even more valued in our community
  3. Help to make youth more aware of resources in their community

For more information about the Halton Youth Initiative and the North Oakville Youth Development Committee visit Youth Voices Matter Community Initiative or contact Siobhan Laverdiere, North Oakville Youth Initiative Project Coordinator at siobhan@ourkidsnetwork.ca

 

Back to School Weather Report

By Nikki Taylor, Senior Manager, Early Years and Family Supports,                Oakville Parent-Child Centre

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

These powerful words from psychologist, teacher and author, Dr. Hiam Ginott are worthy of reflection as our children, teachers and parents head back to the school routine. While Dr. Ginott is referencing the role of teachers, I believe it is equally appropriate for anyone who has the privilege of influencing the growth and development of our children.

I was reminded of this quote after spending some time with my 7 and 10 year-old grandchildren recently. We chatted for a while and finally came around to the “getting-ready-for-school” conversation. The 7 year-old was nervously anticipating the first day as many children do, not yet knowing who her teacher or classmates would be. My oldest granddaughter explained excitedly that her teacher was new to the school, but as it turned, out she had made an assumption. Later in the day, we ran into a friend who explained that this teacher had married over the summer. She was not new to the school. I was taken aback by the instant change in my granddaughter’s demeanor – from excited and happy to quiet and thoughtful. When we were alone, I asked her about the change in her behaviour. She explained that this teacher was well known for raising her voice often. As a sensitive and empathetic child, this creates a distressing climate for my granddaughter, and she was worried. To protect her heart, I told her that when an adult behaves badly, it’s not about the children, but about the adult.

I’ m not here to judge nor condemn educators or parents. I am both, and have certainly raised my voice from time to time. We are all human after all. However, as I reflect on my own behaviour, I realize that outbursts are not a conscious choice and have little or nothing to do with others, and are more about inner feelings. Stress, in particular, hijacks our logical brain, impulse control, and self-regulation skills; leaving us under the power of our emotional brain. Did you know that children often misinterpret expressions of stress on adult faces, as anger? I can’t help but wonder what children see and how they feel as they look to each of us for understanding, support, patience, and care given the levels of stress many of us live with.

When we take care of ourselves, we are better able to care for others. What if we worked harder to create a climate for ourselves, each other, and for children, that allows us to feel secure, respected, safe and loved, rather than criticized, judged and overworked?

Caring teachers and family

 

I hope that this short reflection will help us, as adults raising and working with children, to create a climate of acceptance, tolerance and trust for children and youth to thrive.

Youth Talks: HEAR US OUT! North Oakville Youth Council event

Developmental Relationships Framework in Action with Youth in North Oakville

By Siobhan Laverdiere, Our Kids Network, North Oakville Youth Project Coordinator

On March 3, the North Oakville Youth Development Council (YDC) hosted their very first event and Youth Talks: Hear Us Out was a resounding success! Youth in North Oakville and beyond shared their thoughts and opinions about topics that were important to them; and took the opportunity to connect and build relationships with adults in the community. The event was produced by the Youth Development Council, and supported by the YDC valued adult allies and Our Kids Network.

Over 75 adults, youth and children attended – and the adult attendees were definitely engaged in hearing what youth had to say:

“The community of Oakville is a better place with the leadership of the youth I heard tonight.”

“Very interesting, diverse and meaningful presentation/event.”

“Great that you were able to bring youth and adults together.”

YVM event adult attendees

Adults in the audience took the opportunity to ask questions directly of youth which opened up communication; applauded their presentations; and made sure to record the event.

Some of the most meaningful feedback on the event came from the youth who planned and participated in the event. Their comments are reflective of the Developmental Relationships framework which centres on surrounding young people with relationships that can help them develop strengths such as positive identity and commitment to their community. These relationships include those with family, schools, community programs and neighbourhoods.

There are five key categories:
1. Expressing Care towards youth
2. Challenging growth in youth
3. Providing youth with support
4. Sharing power with youth
5. Expanding possibilities for youth

What did youth have to say about how planning and participating in the event made them feel?

Did you feel cared about to some degree while participating in this event?
YDC members who produced the event said that the adult allies were very supportive of them during the planning process. The adults in the audience were also very encouraging by engaging in the conversations. They also expressed that they appreciated what youth had to say.

Youth speakers said
“I felt that my opinion was quite valued and that they (adults) understood many of the concepts brought up in my speech/ the event.”

“While participating in this event I felt valued because for around 8 minutes I had the stage. It was my turn to speak and I could share my opinions about world issues and what I thought with the community.”

Youth presenters at event

Left: Giovanna Gerada, a Grade 9 student, gave a tutorial to the audience about how to draw. Centre: Talia Nicholls provided adults with information about the benefits of social media. Talia is in Grade 8. Right: Teresa Baricevic, talked to adults about life as a youth in 2018. Teresa is a Grade 9 student. Continue reading

Putting Research and Relationships in Action to Help Kids Thrive in 2017

A wrap up of some of this year’s successes, challenges and what we’re planning for the future. These are just a few of the exciting ways that collective action takes place in Halton! Much more information to discover in our 2017 Collective Impact Report

 

By Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager

A Generation of Children…
We announced that a generation of children have now completed all surveys through three data cycles. This means is children who are now in their teens were assessed through the Early Development Instrument (EDI) in 2006. They completed all surveys through three data cycles between 2006 and 2015 and represent our first generation of children who have completed every assessment or survey in the full OKN data cycle.

OKN is challenged:
with engaging professionals who plan services and supports and make decisions, to use this incredibly important research to collaborate and plan services and supports for kids and families.

In the near future:
Halton is the first community to develop a unique partnership with the Learning Bar to analyze and report the Tell Them From Me (TTFM) and OurSCHOOL Survey data at the community level. OKN researchers are currently analyzing data from 2015/16, representing 18,047 students in Grades 4 to 6 and 9 to 12. The data represent important aspects of youth experiences such as friendships, health and wellness and life in school. Our Kids Network plans to release a report on this data early in the New Year.

EXPLORE! DISCOVER! KNOW! www.ourkidsnetwork.ca
We launched our new website featuring four categories of knowledge: Our Community, Working Together, Building Relationships, Our Research,  with 238 resources for professionals.

OKN is challenged:
to surpass the 20,000 page views since March 2017 and continually refresh and expand the site.

In the future:
OKN will explore e-learning options and technology.

Asset-Building is hotter than ever in Halton!
The numbers said it all:
More than 200 youth received developmental assets presentations
19 meetings hosted for community planning and coordination with 198 different professionals
10 organizations trained in the Asset-Building Toolkit
103 professionals attended the Asset-Building Forum in April
Over 5000 professionals attended “Everyone’s An Asset-Builder” workshops
Approximately 139 diverse professionals are Asset-Building Champions (and belong to the Asset-Building Network)

OKN is challenged:
to “move the movement” towards the Developmental Relationships framework.

In the near future:
Watch for the new Relationships First workshops in early 2017!

Local Impact: Youth Voices Matter: North Oakville Youth Development Council

Youth Voices

A group of teens is changing their community by reaching out with their ideas and opinions!

OKN is challenged:
to ensure their voices are heard and respected and that their ideas get implemented.

In the future:
OKN will continue to find opportunities to advance the OKN Youth Policy of “For Youth – With Youth – By Youth”.

Local Impact: OKN Early Years Initiative
The OKN Early Years Initiative is working in six neighbourhoods using a collective impact process of involving a dedicated community-wide group of organizations. Each of these six community tables will respond to research (Early Development Instrument) that indicates young children are not meeting developmental milestones needed do well in school. The Early Years Initiative will utilize EDI scores and local experiences to engage community members, and inspire and support action.

OKN is challenged:
to work together with local professionals to lay the foundation for sustained and meaningful practice and programs in these communities.

In the future:
Keep watching for the long-term results of this important work.

Relationships Help Us Sink or Swim

The voices of some Halton students are heard through their new video  about the importance of relationships in the lives of children

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

Last October, seven amazing students from Eastview Public School told Our Kids Network (OKN) staff what they thought about their relationships with the adults in their lives. They all agreed strongly that it is those relationships that help them sink or swim. In other words, it’s relationships that help them feel good about themselves and do well – or not.

The students told stories about times when they felt they were sinking. Each story was always about a relationship in their life. Amelie told a story about when she first came to Canada and it took her a year to find a relationship where she felt connected. “Once I got to know the girl with the fluffy white dog, I felt as though I wasn’t sinking anymore,” she said.

Zane summarized some of the things that the whole group identified as really important. He stated, “We would like to have mutual respect, and for adults to have high expectations for us. We want adults to know that we have a voice and that sometimes we need assistance to accomplish what we want. We spend a lot of time with adults so we want to have a healthy relationship, so that we can be successful.”

When the students were asked to create a video to express their thoughts and stories, they jumped at the chance. Teacher, Karen Livingston, school Vice-Principal, Cynthia Snowdon, OKN Developmental Assets Manager, Mary Tabak, and OKN Research Committee chair, Shelley Lothian, all offered to help. “We all had our own ideas to contribute, and the adults made sure that information was relevant to creating healthy relationships. It made us feel supported to know that they cared about our work,” explained Nyda.  Abdullah added, “The group got stronger because of the amount of time we spent together. The more time you spend with people, (the more) you feel more comfortable to be able to share your ideas. At first we were a bit awkward with each other but now it is really easy.”

Anna said, “I felt valued because they all were given a chance to speak out about what they were passionate about.” Danijela felt the same way, “They made us feel important and made some great relationships with us. They always pushed us to our full capacity.”

Kyaan loved the opportunity to work with others and to try out new technology. “Having to do this project was a whole new experience for me. It was really cool to get to work with other kids and create a project from start to finish with them. I also got to learn how to use a program I hadn’t used before,” he said.

The students appeared at the Our Kids Network Annual Meeting on November 23 to present their video and talk about how relationships are one of the most important aspects of feeling good about yourself and doing well.

Our Kids Network congratulates Amelie, Zane, Abdullah, Nyda, Anna, Danijela and Kyaan on their outstanding work on the video and presentation.

The video is now featured in the Building Relationships section  of the OKN website and will be used to educate professionals in their work with children and families.