Caption: Over 40 Grand Erie secondary students were hired and placed at various Grand Erie sites and community organizations throughout the district.
It’s not every day that you get the chance to spend your summer holidays back at camp, but only this time as the counsellor and not the camper.
But 42 Grand Erie secondary students are doing just that in July and August, as well as trying out a few other professions that might interest them.
Through Focus on Youth (FOY), a Ministry of Education funded program, students have been given full-time employment opportunities with various not-for-profit groups in Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk.
While a majority of students are placed in summer camps, there were also placements in the Grand Erie Facility Services department, City of Brantford Food Bank, Grand River Conservation Authority and Habitat for Humanity. This summer is also the first that FOY opportunities were offered in Norfolk and Haldimand County.
“We’re seeing a major confidence boost in these students who are simultaneously building a stronger community for themselves,” said Kimberly Roberts, Student Leadership Development Lead.
“They’re engaged and these opportunities are giving them more options for work in the areas that interest them.”
At West Lynn Public School in Simcoe, two Simcoe Composite Secondary School students are enjoying spending their summer as camp counsellors right in their own backyard.
“It’s a cool program for us to be able to pursue through the school,” said Grade 12 student Kyla Smith. “I like that this is more interactive work and that I can hang out with kids and get a better feel for it.”
Kyla hopes to pursue a career in teaching and feels that her time at camp has been a natural fit.
The goal of Focus on Youth is to provide greater access to high quality programs for children and youth in the community. FOY provides learning, leadership and employment opportunities for youth and offers free use of school space for children and youth based programming. The program, first launched in Grand Erie for March Break 2016, also allows Grand Erie to provide employment experiences for ‘at-risk’ youth.
“Students have the ability to be a mentor and a big brother or sister for other students in the community,” said Roberts. “You don’t always realize the positive impact you might have on others.”
Myrtleville House was a returning community partner to the FOY program this summer having run a week-long camp in March with Grand Erie students as counsellors. This summer’s camp runs from July 4 until the end of summer break, which Sarah Thomas, Education Officer with the Brant Historical Society, believes to be a benefit for the students.
“There’s so much more time for the students to develop their skills in the summer program,” said Thomas. “They can learn and work with the senior counsellors to achieve and help the camp run smoothly. They really get to explore more of a realistic working world.”