RBC Future Launch Community Challenge Vital Conversations
RBC Future Launch Community Challenge Vital Conversation
This month, the Community Foundation for Kingston & Area co-hosted Vital Conversation: Kingston’s Youth Voices with the Kingston Immigration partnership.
This theme was a continuation of the work that had been undertaken by the successful grantee to the RBC Future Launch Community Challenge, Kingston Employment & Youth Services (KEYS). Their project received a $15,000 grant in 2019 to launch the New Horizons: Newcomer Youth Peer Mentoring Group.
The focus of our conversation was on the future in our community for newcomer youth, and the voices that we wanted to hear were those of newcomer youth themselves. A strong network of youth leaders is developing in our community, each with unique backgrounds, strengths and stories. They are the backbone of a responsive network that continues to support newcomer youth navigate in their new home.
We had 17 participants on our Zoom call, with 10 youth participants that included youth leaders from the KEYS peer mentoring project as well as others who participate in programs with local immigrant services agencies.
We asked participants to consider two questions in advance for the Vital Conversation.
- If you could wave a magic wand, what would the future look like for newcomer youth in Kingston?
- What would it take to make that a reality? What would help it to happen? What would it look like?
Key Themes in the answers we heard
Inclusion & Belonging
Participants felt very strongly that a key ingredient for newcomer youth was to feel a sense of inclusion and belonging in the community. The opposite is feeling like an outsider and ‘different’.
“I get asked so many times where I am from. When I answer Kingston, some people say-no, where are your from, from. I’m from Kingston! It’s exhausting.”
Newcomer youth all have unique stories, strengths, concerns and needs that should be recognized. Too often they feel that they are expected to all be and act the same in Canadians’ eyes.
“Just because I am learning English, I am not illiterate. I speak 3 languages and graduated secondary school.”
Often youth mental health needs are not recognized or are kept hidden because of stigma or fear. Even if services exist, youth may not know where to go to find it, or how to access it.
“I heard that some international students in Kingston had spent their entire time here without making a single friend. That made me so sad.”
Mental health is linked to inclusion and belonging and the casual, deliberate incidents of racist behaviour and racist microaggressions that newcomer youth face in our community.
“I also think the younger we discuss these various cultural practices/traditions/holidays in schools, it means that kids are more inclined to appreciate and notice similarities amongst themselves, instead of focusing on differences.”
Proposed Action Items
- Continue to build the capacity of youth leadership in our community in all areas-arts, music, sports and social support to help continue to engage youth new to our community.
- Provide more opportunities for youth to provide peer support to others. They already have credibility and trust. Make sure they are paid for their efforts.
- Work with local schools, school boards and post -secondary institutions in our community to bring multicultural learning programs to break down barriers.
We are so grateful that this group took the opportunity to spend the time with us and share their thoughts and ideas. As a Community Foundation, we have challenged ourselves to seek out granting opportunities with an Equity Diversity and Inclusion lens and be strategic with our ‘for youth, by youth’ funds. We look forward to continuing the conversation with these engaged youth leaders about how these funds can be granted to address their needs.
The RBC Future Launch Community Challenge is made possible thanks to support from the RBC Foundation, and is part of RBC Future Launch, a commitment to empower Canadian youth for the jobs of tomorrow.