Two years ago, Jace was a Grade 8 student with great ideas about how to improve our community, but no place or the confidence to voice them.
That changed with one phone call. “My aunt told me about a program at the YW. It sounded like an interesting way to get involved in the community. I figured—what have I got to lose?”
The program was Community (S)Heroes, YW Kitchener-Waterloo’s free program for girls and transgender youth in Grades 7 to 10 who want to learn how to be changemakers. Sessions cover social justice issues, leadership, and teamwork while youth volunteer in the community. As their skills and confidence grow, they are matched with community mentors to launch their own changemaking projects.
Jace joined Community (S)Heroes in 2017 and, more than two years, countless workshops, and 100+ volunteer hours later, learned that there was a great deal in the community to feel concerned about.
“My eyes were opened to issues that I wouldn’t otherwise have thought about.”
With the help of mentor Sue Weare, Jace focussed these concerns into a single goal: improving the lives of young people in the Region. Jace and another program participant created and delivered a workshop at the region’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance Conference, sharing practical tips on how youth can create community change. That experience inspired Jace to join a local youth group that is championing innovative ways of improving the well-being of youth in Waterloo Region.
“Before starting Community (S)Heroes, I had lots of ideas, but I didn’t put myself out there,” Jace explains. “Because of these experiences, I’ve learned how to be confident and how to tell people that I want and deserve to be heard.
“I’ve learned that my voice matters and that I do have what it takes to help make the world a better place.”
Visit YW’s Youth Programs page to learn more about our free Community (S)Heroes that runs each year from September through to June.