A Summer to Remember – Supporting Youth Engagement

While we watch the leaves on the trees turn colour and feel the change in the air, we may find ourselves reflecting on a season once filled with warm, fond memories, a sunny season that will carry us through until we welcome summer again.

Some of us may have taken family vacations to explore parks and beaches, taken in concerts, relaxed at the cabin while others may have enjoyed time at home with some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

While summer often holds the promise of fun and adventure, some young people struggle to get involved in summer activities.  Summer camps for some are not accessible due to age limits, transportation difficulties and/or associated costs.

A new summer camp for youth

YESP – Youth Engagement Summer Program in the St. John’s Metro Area was created to bridge this gap.  For two years in a row, youth outreach workers, referred to as YOWERS, were able to benefit from an Eastern Health Lighthouse Grant for Innovation to develop and deliver a summer program in the metro region.  The program was targeted to youth who cannot access summer programming because of age or other barriers.

“YESP provides a great opportunity for youth to learn and grow physically, mentally, and physiologically,” according to youth outreach worker, Joanne Cull. “It also provides youth with a chance to have positive mentors in their lives.”

This year, the summer program once again got off to a good start. Youth outreach workers contacted past YESP participants to assess interest in once again participating in the program. They were given the option to nominate a friend to attend the program, and in no time, the camp was up and running with a full complement!

The program ran for six weeks. Each week began with a discussion topic to increase education about topics which included self-esteem, social skills, problem solving, conflict resolution, emotional literacy and peer relationships.  There were also regular outings, which youth helped to choose. Outings included swimming at the Aquarena, trips to Bowering Park, Kenny’s Pond, Manuel’s River, mini golf and movies at Empire Theatres.  Lunch was always provided free-of-charge and participants were provided with monthly metro bus passes to ensure they could easily get to camp.

Some of the comments from the young campers:

“I never swam in a pond before.”
“I don’t have the opportunity often to choose what I have for lunch and snacks.”
“I have never been camping before.”
“I think it’s great having a say on what we think are important subjects and what we do for activities.”

From left to right: Deanne Fitzpatrick, Joanne Cull and Cindy Murray

From left to right: Deanne Fitzpatrick, Joanne Cull and Cindy Murray

Youth outreach workers Cindy Murray, Deanne Fitzpatrick and Joanne Cull all agree that the experience was a positive one for everyone concerned. “We would certainly do it again; not only was it a positive experience for our youth, but, we as mentors, learned and grew with them. They reminded us of our youth, and how important it is to have fun!”

YESP is delivered by the Outreach, Prevention and Promotion Team with Eastern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program.  ■

This story was written by Tracey Sharpe-Smith,  acting Regional Addictions Prevention Consultant for Rural Avalon and Peninsulas with Eastern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program in St. John’s.

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