Programs provide youth skills for life

Having fun is all in a day’s work for a youth in the city’s leadership programs.

Megan Noakes

Megan Noakes

Twisting balloons into a cute puppy, painting a child’s face to resemble a tiger and playing with kids in the playground is all in a day’s work for a youth in the city’s leadership programs offered this summer.

These activities may seem like all fun and games, but the youth participating in the parks, recreation and cultures’ Leaders in Training and Quest programs are gaining valuable skills such as child management techniques and activity planning.

The programs are designed to give youth hands-on work experience by volunteering for summer camps or community events such Canada Day, the Vancouver Island Exhibition and others.

Megan Noakes, a city recreation coordinator, said she’s seen some youth come into the program a little tentative or unsure and emerge with more confidence, adding it had that effect on her.

“The LIT program gave me an opportunity to come out of my shell and feel more comfortable,” said Noakes. “It was a life changing experience for me in the best way possible.”

Noakes has a degree in recreation and health education from the University of Victoria. One reason she decided to go into the recreation field was her experiences in the LIT program, she said.

Noakes loves interacting with children and originally attended the university to take an education degree but changed her mind because of her positive experience working in recreation programs. She said she loves the interaction jobs in the recreation field offer and the ability to build community.

She was the youth leadership coordinator, which oversees the LIT and QUEST programs, from 2007-2008. Now she supervises the leadership coordinator.

Leaders in Training, a program for youth aged 13-18 years old, helps youth develop team work, interview, leadership and child management skills. The youth will interact with a variety of community members during their training; however, they will primarily interact with children through the city’s summer camp and drop-in day programs. They will complete four core workshops: clowning around, team work, children and on the job 101.

The LIT program is for first time participants while Quest participants have already been through the program and are advancing their training. The latter is split into focus areas of community, aquatics and arenas.

The community training requires participants to complete 11 hours of training, which includes orientation and four workshops.

It includes learning communication, planning and leadership skills as well as child management techniques and resume and interview skills.

The aquatics training gives youth hands-on experience volunteering during swimming lessons, public swims and special events. They must have a Bronze Star to qualify. Arenas training focuses on skate training workshops where youth learn about lessons, public skating and special events.

There is flexibility to accommodate youth with placements close to where they live if transportation is a barrier for them.

The Leaders in Training and Quest orientation is June 16 at Oliver Woods Community Centre. Participants receive further training date information when they register.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of LIT and Quest programs offered in Nanaimo. Noakes said parks, recreation and culture would love to hear from past participants and how the programs have helped them.

She said the youth volunteer an average of about 8,000 hours each summer and over the course of 30 years the impact on Nanaimo has been “exceptional”. Past participants are invited to share their experiences by e-mailing

For more information please contact parks, recreation and culture at 250-756-5200 or go to