Empowering Youth as Leaders in Newcomer Youth Engagement

In November 2020, amidst the pandemic, six bright high school students decided they wanted to challenge themselves and help others. They came together as the New Canadians Centre’s Young Leaders (NCCYL) where they gained leadership experience, engaged in discussions, and led projects to help make positive impacts in their local communities. These six members of the inaugural council are Aya Darrouba, Preshtha Garg, Ian Nazario, Lujaina Kamar, Sami El Moussa, and Saoirse Aherne. 

NCCYL was created to empower youth who have newcomer experience by offering a platform where they can discuss the issues that affect newcomer youth, explore their own stories and how they can help. Through weekly virtual meetings, training, and projects, NCCYL members were able to help other newcomer youth, while building leadership skills in the process. The members talked about their experiences when they arrived in Canada and the hardships of moving to a new country as a young person. The ideas were big, but amidst the pandemic, there was a need for creativity and improvisation with the ever-changing rules during this time. 

One of the first initiatives organised by the group was a virtual hangout session for other youth. However, they quickly realised that youth were intimidated by virtual events, and facing a lot of screen fatigue. The group came together to reassess their plan and come up with solutions and new ways to engage youth. From these discussions, the members decided to hold a homework help group on Zoom, offering peer tutoring to other newcomer youth. Members were paired up with students who needed help in a particular subject. 

The youth wanted to find a way to share their experiences and help newcomer youth feel more comfortable and less lonely as they settle in Canada. After many brainstorming sessions, the group settled on creating a Guidebook. The guidebook is filled with personal stories of settlement, advice, resources, and reassurances on settling in Canada. The book is written by newcomer youth, for youth!

The guidebook will be available as an online resource. NCCYL members hope that it will be distributed at schools in the fall. Applying their leadership skills, they advocated for its distribution by presenting at both KPRDSB and PVNCCDSB School District Committees where it has been well-received. The guidebook will also be shared with newcomer youth and families at the New Canadians Centre.

The success of this inaugural council is reflected in the growth of the six members and the impact of their work and passion on other newcomer youth. One member shares, “NCCYL meetings were a highlight of my week, I’m so thankful to learn invaluable leadership skills, learn new perspectives, and make genuine friends.”

Another member shares that “having this virtual group with cool people where we help other newcomers was really great. It was fun and rewarding, and it was good for my mental health too, especially during COVID-19. There weren’t any extracurriculars, and sports were on and off, so having this was a great opportunity, and I really hope students benefit from our project.”

The work ethic and commitment of the NCCYL has been recognised. In Spring 2021, the six members of the group were jointly-awarded the New Canadians Centre’s Youth Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of their dedication and impact. The youth have shown themselves as committed leaders with a true passion for using their experiences to help others.