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Connecting with Youth in the Community

Alicia FaheyTrent University students are making community connections through a mentoring program introduced last year by the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board.

Champions for Youth is designed to improve student achievement, promote positive behaviour and increase the number of high school graduates. The program identifies students at risk of dropping out of school and matches these students with mentors from the community.

The Board initiated this program to engage students who have had difficulties with the law, and help them succeed academically and socially.

Saera Michael, a recent graduate of Trent University and a Champions for Youth mentor, said she has enjoyed being part of the program.

"I love mentoring. It can be challenging when I feel like my influence is not enough to meet the needs of the person that I am paired with. Then a few days later, I notice that our conversations and my choices do influence her. She is beginning to dream. I am privileged to be there watching as she grows, gaining strength and skills to deal with the challenges that life hands her."

Fourth year Concurrent Education student Alicia Fahey has been involved with Champions for Youth for a year now.

"I thought it was really good idea," she said. "I personally know people who dropped out of school. Perhaps if they had someone to put them in the right direction, they might have stayed and finished school."

Ms. Fahey said Champions for Youth coordinator Dave Ralph focused on trying match mentors with youth who had similar interests.

"She really enjoyed floral arranging and I'm very arts and crafty so we thought that would be a good match," she said.

The youth Ms. Fahey mentored helped her organize a dodgeball tournament at Trent to raise money for breast cancer. This included helping with arrangements, making posters and attending the tournament.

"We're in an interesting situation," she added. "She just had a baby, so we spent the summer going to prenatal classes and researching pregnancy."

The two try to get together once a week to do crafts or go out for lunch. They also talk on the phone on a weekly basis, said Ms. Fahey.

Since they began spending time together, Ms. Fahey has witnessed a change for the better.

"I've noticed a change in her social skills for sure. Sometimes I bring some of my friends with me when we spend time together because she likes hanging out with older people," she said. "She was super shy but she's opened up a bit and she hasn't been in trouble since I've been mentoring her."

Ms. Fahey said spending time with her Champions for Youth friend has led her to realize the challenges facing teens today.

"I've met a lot of her friends. The things that go on, I didn't realize how common they are. They're not valuing school – they miss a lot of school. But the responsibilities they have are overwhelming. They're so young and they have to do a lot for themselves."

The innovative Champions for Youth program is a partnership among the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, community agencies, the Youth Criminal Justice System and probation officials with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Youth Justice Services.

Community members are invited to participate in this program by becoming members. For more information on Champions for Youth, visit

Photo: Fourth year Concurrent Education student Alicia Fahey has been involved with Champions for Youth for a year now.

Posted January 4, 2006


































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