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Mar 14, 2016

Flex Your Head, Promoting Youth Mental Health

BGC of Bonnyville staff are breaking down stigmas
BGC of Bonnyville staff are breaking down stigmas

Across Canada, Boys and Girls Club staff members are ready to flex!

A national program promoting mental health and well-being for youth, Flex Your Head is being offered by a growing number of Boys and Girls Clubs in 2016, thanks to  new online training and a downloadable guide that gives staff the knowledge and skills to facilitate youth group collaboration and dialogue.

Created by Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, with initial support of AstraZeneca’s Young Health Program, Flex Your Head encourages youth aged 13 and up to recognize that anxiety and pain are normal. The program typically runs for 12 weeks and begins with youth leadership training followed by a variety of fun group activities to prompt discussions about emotions and well-being. The program introduces young people to strategies for recognizing emotional cues and identifying thoughts that seem to occur automatically in different situations.

I just love the program’s language and approach,” says Kim Reed, program director with Boys and Girls Club of Bonnyville. “Anxiety and sadness are unavoidable. It’s just life. But dealing with these emotions is a skill that can be learned.” With over 10 years’ experience as a high school counsellor, Kim has seen a lot of young people overwhelmed by depression and worry. “I would certainly have used this program in a school setting to help the kids manage their distress,” she says.

Flex Your Head includes a menu of activities from which teens can choose that are designed to tease out concepts and strategies like mindfulness, maintaining good relationships and asserting needs in a youth-friendly and engaging way.

Kathryn Robertson and Kathy Hodges of the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin both enjoyed the online Flex Your Head training and are offering the program to Club teens this year. “I love the activities that teach youth about mental wellness,” Kathryn says. “The program really breaks down the stigma around mental illness.” Kathy agrees, adding that a relaxed and teen-friendly space allows the youth to problem solve as a group in a very supportive way. “We’re giving our young people a safe place to talk about feelings and think about the kind of person they want to be.”

Dec 22, 2015

A Prescription for Success

William
William

THANK YOU for your support of Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC)! Because of you, BGCC is able to help youth like William, a youth member of our Ottawa Club, achieve their academic goals. As a result of the support provided by Boys and Girls Clubs – and the support from Rogers Raising the Grade that William received – he is pursuing his professional aspirations and is excited to now be giving back to support other kids and his community.

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A thoughtful, articulate 18-year-old, William explains that he knew years ago he wanted a career in medicine.

"I'm an early decider," he says with a smile. He also has a personal reason.
"My grandmother lived with us in China before the family moved to Ottawa and she had a lot of lung problems. When I heard her coughing when I was little, I'd tell her: ‘One day, I am going to invent a medicine that will make you better.’
"Sadly, she died before we came to Canada in 2009 and I didn't get a chance to help her. But I’d like to make a contribution to society and I like working with people so I want to be a pharmacist."
William is clearly on track for success. He signed up for Rogers Raising the Grade at the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa when he was in Grade 11 and is beginning an undergraduate program at the University of Ottawa as a prerequisite to pharmacy school.

Rogers Raising the Grade (RRTG) is a national program of Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada and offered in 43 service locations across Canada. RRTG offers homework help, connections with mentors and tutors, and a chance for youth to explore their interests and post-secondary education options. 
The program features Club-based tech centres offering access to computers, high-speed Internet, and a welcoming place to relax and study with peers. Students meet at the Club after school a few times a week to establish and achieve their goals for high school and beyond. 
Many RRTG mentors are in university or recently graduated so they have a lot of good, relevant advice, William says. 
William says he was lucky to be mentored by Peter, who recently completed his surgical residency at the Civic Hospital. "Peter is amazing and really helped me a lot. He told me what courses I needed to take and his experience really expanded my vision.”
William’s been working part-time at a pharmacy for the past year, helping prepare and fill prescriptions, so he’s already getting a good understanding of the job of a pharmacist. 
He has also been working part-time at the Boys and Girls Club for the last two years and plays sports of all kinds every chance he gets. 

Will he be able to keep everything up with the added demands of university?

“I think I’ll manage,” he says with confidence. "My mentor helped me figure out my work/life balance and gave me some good time management tips. He is much more than a mentor to me—he is a friend.”
William says he hopes he can also be a Rogers Raising the Grade mentor. This year, the Ottawa RRTG program is already at full capacity and according to Melissa, the Education Manager at the Club’s Police Youth Centre location, "kids are jumping at the chance to get into the program."
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What do you think? Are you interested in more information about how you can support Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada? Please get in touch – you can reach Sarah at spillersdorf@bgccan.com or 1-844-477-7272 x271.
Dec 17, 2015

Boys and Girls Club Lays Foundation for Success

Alexandria- Boys and Girls Club of Leduc
Alexandria- Boys and Girls Club of Leduc

THANK YOU for your support of Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada!!  Because of you, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada is able to provide opportunities for youth like Alexandria. Alexandria was a Club Kid at the Boys and Girls Club of Leduc, where she made friends, gained new skills, and built confidence through leadership opportunities.

See below for Alexandria's story about her experiences at her local Club– and how Boys and Girls Clubs are helping youth find achieve their full potential.

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Alexandria was a shy, reserved child when she first walked into the Boys and Girls Club of Leduc five years ago. Today, she is a confident leader and role model, chasing her post-secondary dream and eager to give back to the community.

“The Boys and Girls Club brought me out of my hardened exterior,” Alex recalled. “I lived on a reserve for the first 12 years of my life. Times were tough growing up . . . Where I came from, drugs and violence were the norm. When I moved to Leduc, I didn’t really want to make new friends but when I joined the Boys and Girls Club, the staff and volunteers helped me see myself differently. They told me, ‘you’re an awesome person, you can make friends. We’re here to make you feel accepted.’ That really made me feel like I could finally open up. I started shedding my tough exterior and started becoming the person I am today.”

This year, the bubbly 17-year old completed high school and will now channel her passion for the arts, learning and child care into a Bachelor of Education and Native Studies at the University of Alberta.

The budding high school teacher’s motivations are noble.  “I plan to get my education degree and major in Cree languages and move to a reserve again. I want to help people who haven’t had as many opportunities as me," she said.

“I never really thought university was a goal. My goal was to get through high school, day by day. It’s such a thrilling feeling to know that I’ve accomplished so much and there’s so much more now I want to do.”

Alex’s post-secondary dream was made a reality thanks to a Future Shop Future Generation scholarship, which provides recipients with funding for tuition to make the transition to post-secondary much easier. In addition to the scholarship, Future Shop in Edmonton also provided Alex with an iPod and a laptop loaded with amazing programs.

“Without the scholarship, I would have finished high school but I would be applying for student loans to get money for university and balancing a part-time job . . . It would have meant more stress and pressure for sure,” she said. “The laptop has definitely allowed me to be more creative with my projects, strengthen my computer skills and make it easier to do research. I had a computer at home but it was a big old clunky one.”

Alex has no doubt her journey would have been “more rocky” without the support of the Boys and Girls Club, what she calls ‘my second family, my home away from home.’

“The Boys and Girls Clubs taught me self-respect and I grew from a hoodlum child to a young woman with a purpose to help everyone. I made it through because I had the support of the whole Boys and Girls Club behind me. If I had a bad day, they’d always be there and encourage me not to give up,” said Alex.

Carol, who works at the Leduc club and has seen Alex blossom through the years, said Alex’s success story was one that really resonates at the Club.  “She’s definitely developed her confidence and perseverance. I remember when she received the scholarship at Future Shop and her saying, ‘people do believe in me.’ Her whole outlook changed,” she said. “Alex has started her first year at university and she made a lasting effect on the kids in our Club. They still talk about her fondly.”

It’s evident that the members have had a lasting effect on Alex too. “Today, I’m a leader,” Alex said proudly. “Seeing the kids light up and tell me they want to be like me, it’s crazy actually. In the past, i someone said to me, all of these kids look up to you and want to be like you…I would have just shrugged it off. Now I tell them every day they can be anything they want to be.”

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What do you think? Are you interested in more information about how you can support Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada? Please get in touch – you can reach Sarah at spillersdorf@bgccan.com or 1-844-477-7272 x271.

 
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