Breanna Longden

Program helps build Mission youth’s confidence

Breanna Longden spent 13 weeks in the Youth Keep Working program

Crossing a vast expanse might not seem like a hard thing unless you’re 33 feet off the ground and your footholds are nothing more than a series of wooden slats suspended by rope.

As Mission’s Breanna Longden watched her peers making their way across the bosun’s steps she was sure she would never be able to do it.

Longden was taking part in a team-building day at Camp Squeah, in Hope last month as part of Youth Keep Working (YKW), an employment program for youth with multiple barriers to employment, funded by the federal government.

The day included several activities that required the seven participants to challenge themselves individually and to work together as a team. The high ropes course proved to be the biggest challenge for Longden.

“It was way beyond my boundaries,” she recalls, but by the end of the day, she conquered the bosun’s steps and much more. “Once I was up there, I didn’t want to disappoint myself or the others.”

YKW is offered through Agora Employment Essentials Inc. in Abbotsford (a company wholly owned by Mennonite Central Committee BC to deliver its employment programs) and provides life and employability skills training to youth, assisting them to connect them with paid employment or return to school.

Program facilitator Cherie Lynn Wagar says that experiences like the team-building day at Camp Squeah are essential to the program because of the confidence and trust that are built.

“This group becomes like a family,” she says, explaining that they are together six hours a day, five days a week, for 13 weeks. “It’s important for the group to learn to trust each other, encourage each other and learn that they actually have the power to go beyond do what they thought they could do.”

Activities teach them problem solving, leadership skills, and the ability to work with others — all skills that will be valuable in life and to any future employer. YKW participants also learn how to write resumes, cover letters and conduct a job search. Another unique component of the program is time spent in a community service project in which they learn valuable workplace skills while working together on a project that benefits a local community organization.

For Longden, the whole program has been life-changing.

She began shy, unsure and dependent on others and has grown to be confident and independent. When faced with getting from Mission to Abbotsford every day, she decided to start using the bus pass she’d been given through the YKW program — something she’d never have done before. Now she commutes by bus every day.

“The process of doing it gave me the confidence to see that I actually could do it,” she says.

To learn more about Youth Keep Working, visit findingyourway.ca or contact Cherie Lynn Wagar at 604 859 6790 ext 316 or e-mail ykw@mccbc.com.

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