In 2017, after an initial journey exploring the world of Youth Engagement, we brought together a group of young people who were passionate about social justice, reducing the stigma of mental health and making an impact on other young people in the community . This group of insightful young people felt as passionate as we did about Youth Engagement. They told us, “It’s important because youth will soon be the adults who shape the world. It comes full circle in the end.”
We asked them what would be the first step in creating meaningful youth voice at Central Toronto Youth Services, how we as frontline workers and managers could support that vision and how we could help co-create a space where they had decision making power. They decided that the first step should be through social media as this is the medium that youth most often turn to communicate, get information and reach out. They told us that that they would like to,”…use their experiences, ideas and thoughts to communicate directly to other youth, staff and community members. There are a lot of youth out there who have issues related to mental health, racism, sexism, lack of LGBTQ+ support, have been involved with youth justice, as well as many other challenges that youth face. We would like to inspire other youth, share success stories and breakdown stigmas. Youth who are struggling and may feel they are alone, would be able to turn to this blog/social media and be able to see that there’s hope out there that things will get better. They can also find out that there are people and services that can support them.”
This blog is their vision. The young people, with support from staff and our first official youth intern (thanks Jess Gray!), made many decisions and worked hard to make this project happen. These young people have opened a door for all of us at CTYS and together we have taken this step forward. We hope in bringing this vision to life, this important first step on our Youth Engagement journey, we have created a space where youth can speak directly to youth and that as adult allies, we can be the listeners and learners.