Despite the success of Homework Club, over the years we realized that we were failing to attract the most at-risk youth in the catchment – those students who come to school, but don’t attend classes or are not successful when they do. In an effort to engage those students, Homework Club piloted the Youth Engagement Project (YEP!) in September 2012 with a group of eight students. We now accept 20 students total into the program, making a commitment to provide wrap around supports from the day they enter the program to they leave – hopefully, at graduation.
Students are supported by two youth engagement workers who help students to develop a success plan for the year. Participants receive one-to-one personal support to set goals, identify strengths and weaknesses, and track their progress throughout the year. Students commit to attend Homework Club 3 days a week, to attend all classes regularly and on time, and to maintain regular contact with their YEP! worker throughout the school year.
They also attend once monthly Friday night “mentor nights” where students, youth engagement workers and other volunteers share a meal and participate in activities ranging from talking circles and games to sports or cultural activities.
Over spring break, participants spend three days in a chalet on the Vedder River, hiking, fishing, bird watching and learning in the outdoors. For their commitment, students receive a small monthly stipend as well as a bursary for post-secondary education upon successful completion of the school year.
As our sixth year of YEP! draws to a close, we are proud to recognize our most recent graduates. In June 2018, despite incredible odds, six of our youth – 100% of our grade 12s – graduated! Three were the first in their families to earn a high school diploma, and all have plans for post-secondary including Law and Health Sciences at Douglas College, General Studies and Criminology at Langara College and Business Administration at Vancouver Community College. Former graduates from the program have continued to thrive as well. We count among our graduates two hair stylists, a chef, a barista, an Early Childhood Educator and two students pursuing bachelor degrees: one in Engineering and the other in Criminology.