ACTIVE LIFE: Youth programs create community connections

NANAIMO - The city's Leaders in Training and QUEST programs start this June.

Youth in Nanaimo are making a difference in the community.

During the summer, young teens are logging thousands of volunteer hours to help camps and day programs run in the city.

Alita Dancy, Leaders in Training and Quest program leader for parks, recreation and culture, said many people don’t realize the great things youth are doing in Nanaimo.

She wants to fight the negative stereotype many youth get.

“Kids in our community are giving up their whole summer to make all these programs in Nanaimo happen,” said Dancy.

Last year participants in LIT and Quest logged more than 10,000 volunteer hours through the programs, which are offered annually for teens ages 13-18.

Youth are taught effective communication skills, event planning, child behaviour management and more. It gives them hands-on experience as they work in partnership with several charities during the program such as the Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank and others.

Dancy said it also has a ripple effect in the community – young children see the teens volunteering and then when they get older, they also join the program.

“It brings the community together,” said Dancy. “It is creating a great sense of community.”

This year Dancy wants to create more intergenerational connections. She’s trying to create activities where the youth and seniors can work together.

“Bridging that generation gap is really essential,” she said.

Youth must complete the Leaders in Training portion before they can complete the Quest program. Quest builds on skills youth previously learned and includes additional responsibilities where participants specialize in activities for either area or aquatic programs.

LIT youth also receive training through four workshop sessions – clowning, on the job, children and teamwork 101. These sessions help teens learn how to entertain children attending activities and help lead activities during special community events.

To register for either program or for more information, please call 250-756-5200 or go to www.nanaimo.ca.

The first orientation session for youth in the program is June 15 at Oliver Woods Community Centre. On June 22, participants attend a placement session where they can choose which programs they will assist with during the summer.