REACH engages more kids with United Way Canada Life Youth United Grant

Some opportunities aren’t obvious. For some young people, graduating high school and going on to post secondary seems logical, however for countless others living in our community, it might be an opportunity they’ve never even considered. That’s where Western University Students’ Council’s (USC) Early Outreach program, or REACH, comes into the picture.

REACH is a three-day, overnight conference driven by the USC with a complement of over 70 volunteers. The program, funded in part by United Way’s Canada Life Youth United grant, connects young people in London and Middlesex County with post-secondary options and the tools and knowledge to attain them.

“For many young people, post-secondary education seems like an unattainable dream,” says Majd Radhaa, Early Outreach Coordinator, Western University Students’ Council. “REACH takes those expectations and turns them upside down.”

But REACH is more than just prep for young people thinking about university or college. Over the course of its three-day curriculum, students sit in on lectures at Western, go on a road trip to Fanshawe College for a look at college life, and take part in a life-size Game of Life. The impact on the young people is obvious, says Radhaa. Their confidence grows, they set goals, learn about scholarships, bursaries, and other supports, and most importantly, come to realize that post-secondary pursuits are attainable.

The experience is something many of the youth describe as eye opening.

Youth delegates are grouped with two Western student mentors, called Leadership Developers, for the course of their experience. The Leadership Developer’s role is to provide guidance, mentorship, and help the young person build confidence and explore their options and interests. And it’s not uncommon for a Leadership Developer to have been a youth delegate themself. The experience is memorable, and for many, life changing.

Many of the Leadership Developers return year over year, and if they could, would continue post-graduation. “I’ve never been a part of something that makes me feel this way,” shared one Leadership Developer after the conference.

A big goal of the University Students’ Council is to include as many young people as possible. While REACH’s content and experience may not be completely unique, what makes REACH special is its zero-dollar price tag which includes transportation to and from Middlesex County when needed.

“What makes REACH special is that it gives young people knowledge and tools to attain their goals. Many of the youth come to us never thinking they would even graduate high-school.”

Canada Life Youth United provides small grants to youth-initiated and youth-led volunteer teams that have developed a creative action plan to address an issue related to poverty, mental health, children and youth or newcomers. With the support of teachers, principals, community leaders, their peers, United Way and others, Canada Life Youth United applicants develop their own solutions and responses to the problems that concern them. They learn skills necessary to design, implement, monitor and evaluate meaningful and relevant community projects.

Are you a young person with great idea that can change our community? Learn more about Canada Life Youth United grants.

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