Boys and Girls Clubs across Canada are helping young people to channel their energy into positive projects that help their community.
Keystone Club, supported by Capital One, has been a vehicle for youth participation for more than 30 years. It focuses on leadership, education and career development, economic and political awareness, and social recreation.
In Keystone, youth plan activities based on their interests and the needs of their community, giving them the chance to help change their world.
Last year, youth-lead projects included anti-bullying campaigns, beautification of community gardens, preparing meals for underprivileged citizens, volunteering at community events and festivals, and leading fundraising drives.
Of the 15 Clubs who each received a $5,000 grant from Capital One last year, 60 per cent used the funds to start a new Keystone group. For Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island, the highlight of the first year was a camping trip that took youth out of their comfort zone, teaching them outdoor survival skills such as building a shelter and a fire and canoeing techniques on the river.
Craig Torry, Keystone program coordinator for Boys and Girls Club of Red Deer & District, said the program has been pivotal over the years in changing the lives of numerous local youth by building their self-confidence, sense of belonging and purpose.
Club youth organize the annual Keystone retreat where they participate in leadership activities and plan for the year ahead. But it’s not always so serious – in December, the group held a winter party at Bower Ponds, bonding over mugs of hot chocolate, stories by the fire, singing festive songs and of course, skating.
It’s no wonder other Boys and Girls Clubs are also eager to launch Keystone programs.
Following the success of its Torch Club – Keystone’s sister program for children six to 12 years, Boys and Girls Club of Kamloops identified Keystone Club as a way to engage its older youth in productive activities.
The Club has about 40 youths attend on a Friday night, but Kamloops’ Deandra Tousignant said they wanted to attract more throughout the week through worthwhile activities.
“We needed to expand our youth programming for older youth and we thought Keystone would be a good way,” she explained.
Ms. Tousignant said many youth came to the Club from unstable situations, often lacking food and shelter and a program like Keystone would add structure to their lives.
“(Keystone’s) about laying a good foundation to empower our young people,” she said.
100% of parents and teachers reported that Keystone is extremely beneficial for young people.