Summary of 2012 YouthCAN Conference!
The sixth annual YouthCAN conference “SUCCESS! It’s a Journey”, held in August of this year, was indeed a huge SUCCESS! Thanks in part to our host, Seneca College, this highly anticipated and exciting event was able to take place, hosting over 300 youth in care and staff chaperones representing Children’s Aid Societies from all across the province of Ontario.
Youth had the opportunity to experience a taste of college life for three days while staying in Seneca residence, learning to navigate the campus, meeting professors, utilizing the gym and fitness centres, and eating the delicious food on campus.
On the first day we were joined by Tracy MacCharles, representing the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. A generous sponsor and supporter of YouthCAN, Ms. MacCharles kick-started the event with an official welcome to youth attendees. Our keynote speaker, Earl Lambert, followed shortly after with a motivational and thought provoking presentation on overcoming life obstacles.
Following the speeches, YouthCAN Eastern Zone youth delegates facilitated a large evening icebreaker activity that got everyone socializing and moving. There were many amazing prize giveaways, including mini portable speakers, USB keys, water bottles, notepads, wireless headphones, and digital cameras.
Day two was opened by the wonderful staff, professors, and faculty of Seneca College. We were welcomed by David Agnew, President of Seneca, and Samir Abdi, President of Seneca Student Federation. Youth participated in workshops facilitated by Seneca faculty for the greater half of the day. Fun and informative, the workshops helped to show youth their options for post-secondary education.
The workshops were followed by a lunchtime poster session, where youth agencies from across the province joined us to showcase their programs and services. Later, youth had the opportunity to participate in YouthCAN workshops that were designed and facilitated by young people themselves. Afterwards, representatives from The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth came to present the Youth Leaving Care Hearings Report, illustrating the struggles that youth in care face when transitioning into independence.
The evening was capped off with the sixth annual YouthCAN talent show and dance, where participants showcased their talents in singing, dance, guitar, drumming, and more, in front of a large and supportive crowd of 300 people. Every brave participant was a winner!
The third and final day of the YouthCAN conference saw two more sessions of YouthCAN workshops followed by a powerful performance by Elevated Grounds on mental health and stigma. These young people showed us how everyone can be affected by poor mental health, and how seeking help can make a difference. The presentation was concluded with a talk-back where many spoke up about their personal experiences with mental health issues and how they overcame these challenges, a very emotional way to end the conference!
On behalf of OACAS and YouthCAN, we thank you for making it a SUCCESSFUL 2012 conference! Hope to see you next year on your journey!
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