A unique summer program for teens in Chilliwack shows there’s a correlation between positive reinforcement and success.
The Youth Extra Support (YES) program meshes work experience and skills development, with mentoring and counselling, recreation, and community service.
For local youth who didn’t manage to land a summer job or get registered in a summer day camp, YES has become a structured and valuable program, developed by Ann Davis Transition Society staff.
It’s heading into its fifth year of operation with a solid track record.
“For many of the kids it’s their first experience with positive feedback,” says YES program coordinator Steve Andrews, a child and youth counsellor for ADTS.
“Giving them individualized feedback at the end of the day seems to make a huge difference.”
Recreation and community service are key components and the activities are also learning experiences.
A typical day will see the group starting out at the Ann Davis offices on Young Road for about an hour of skills development in a classroom-like setting.
Then they’ll head out and do a couple of hours of community service work like painting, landscaping, trail-building or walking dogs for example.
Thursday afternoon the kids were helping out at the Chilliwack Community Garden, which is being developed on Wells Road by Food Matters Chilliwack and Chilliwack Society for Community Living.
The garden plot has been plowed and the YES team was helping prepare the lumber to make a series of raised vegetable beds at the site.
But just like in the real working world, if they’re going to be late one morning or too sick to come in, they have to phone in.
“But if they have a bad day and head home a little early, when they come back the next day we tell them it’s fantastic they’ve returned.”
This year Chilliwack school district officials are allowing YES participants to put their work experience hours toward the 30-hour requirement in order to graduate from high school.
The program is for 13- to 17-year-olds who may be struggling in some areas, and it helps them fill in the gaps over the summer holidays.
“They experience personal growth in this program because we ask them to set goals. For some it’s just arriving on time regularly.
“For others it may be becoming work-ready or getting work experience, so we’ll talk about interview skills and stress management.”
YES was made possible this summer with a $15,000 grant from Coast Capital’s Community Investment fund.
Two groups of about a dozen kids each are signed up for three week sessions in July and then in August.
“Sometimes kids return and go on to become junior leaders. They end up setting the standard for the others in the group.”
A good attitude goes a long way.
“I always tell the kids they can make things fun or miserable. It’s their choice.”
They are also acquiring life skills, which helps along the way to make them employment ready. The elements of resume writing and interview role-playing are practised.
“They’re moving toward more positive social behaviour at the same time.”
At the end the program they all receive a written letter of reference for their future studies and career searches.
Plus they get some spending money for their diligent efforts.
“Each youth is paid $25 a week for their volunteer work. That’s a big attraction for many of the kids. We treat it like a pay cheque. There’s a real sense of pride in earning and receiving a cheque. It works really well.”