Victoria Foundation’s Vital Youth program provides students with hands-on experience in philanthropy and community development. Formally launched in three schools in November 2003, the program – previously named Youth in Philanthropy – has since grown to include seven high schools.
Representatives of the Victoria Foundation’s Vital Youth program presented a total of $17,684 in grants to 18 local charities May 2.
The following is an edited excerpt of the speech by grade 12 students Bree Neale and Emma Thompson of Oak Bay High School, who represented the program:
When we joined the Oak Bay [High School Vital Youth] club for the first time, we were touched by the stories we heard from various charities. Some of the stories related to our own personal lives in some ways, whether it be a life challenge somebody faced with homelessness or having a brain injury and needing somewhere to stay.
In Grade 11 we stepped up and became [club] leaders, but we were still a little unsure of the best way to lead the group. When we were invited to the Community Foundations of Canada Conference in Vancouver last year we were really excited and happy to be chosen. And it was amazing.
The best part of the youth day was the scavenger hunt. There is no way to describe the feeling you get from being out in the community experiencing first-hand how small acts of kindness leave positive impacts on people. During the scavenger hunt, we were fortunate enough to be a part of these impacts on people as we gave out free coffee to someone who we felt needed it, made a sign to make people smile (that said “smile if you like the Canucks”) and singing and dancing with complete strangers on the street. All of these activities were incredible experiences to be a part of and it was so special to meet so many youth from across Canada and around the world. We made a lot of new friends!
Attending the main part of the conference allowed us to see how philanthropy exists in the bigger picture. Listening to speeches by some of the world’s most influential leaders, including the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, human rights activist Naomi Tutu, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, provided us with new motivation, skills and information to bring back to our club. A quote that really spoke to us from this conference came from Tutu, the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa: “In times of trouble the wise reach out. They build bridges to connect with others.”
We would like to say a big thank-you to the donors on behalf of all the youth who get the opportunity to be involved in Vital Youth. There are endless benefits from the program. It is extremely rewarding to know that we are making a difference, and to see the enthusiasm recipients show, and the ability they have to further develop their charitable goals. It’s amazing to see how much of an impact the group makes on not only the charities who receive the grants, but also the students.