by John Copley
(ANNews) -The Alberta Sport Connection (ASC) is currently putting out a call for self-directed young adults or post-secondary students who enjoy working with youth and would like to participate as a team member of ASC’s Alberta Future Leaders Program (AFL). This initiative partners the ASC with Alberta’s Indigenous communities, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the RCMP, and corporate sponsors to provide youth aged 9 through 20 years old with new experiences, positive role models, opportunities to build confidence, overcome barriers and realize their potential through sport, art, recreation, leadership and cultural programming.
“This unique initiative,” explained Sport Consultant and AFL Program Coordinator Scott Grevlund, “creates life-changing opportunities for both our AFL Mentors and for the youth they work with throughout the four-month long summer program in the host community.”
The goal of the program is to promote active, vibrant Indigenous communities, where local sports, recreation, arts and leadership experiences inspire youth to become positive leaders. If you are a self-directed individual who has experience in leading and involvement in sports, the arts, recreation, volunteerism and leadership initiatives, an exciting opportunity awaits you this summer when the Alberta Future Leaders Program gets underway across the province. Application deadline is February 25.
Mentors come from many backgrounds and over the years have included athletes, artists, former youth who participated in the program in their community and many other experiences. The positive attitudes, active lifestyles and the endless energy that mentors bring to the community fosters strong relationships with local youth and helps enable them to also become positive role models and inspiring youth who make a positive difference in their communities.
Since its inception in 1996 the AFL Program, has partnered with over forty Indigenous communities in Alberta, created more than one million participant hours of programming and has positively affected the lives of thousands of Indigenous youth.
The five key components of the initiative include: Intensive Mentor Training, Role Modelling, Program, Camps and Trips, Leadership Camp and Partnerships. That initiative continues yet again this year as the Program gets ready to launch its 22nd year of partnering with Alberta’s Indigenous communities. The Alberta Sport Connection’s unique program helps build leaders, nurture talent, and enhance community wellness. The organization takes great pride in playing a role that helps develop “life-changing opportunities for Albertans, whether it’s helping someone develop their physical literacy skills, earn a coaching certificate, promoting youth development or participating in the AFL Leadership Retreat.
The Alberta’s Future Leaders Program (AFL) is a community and youth development program that uses sport, recreation, arts and leadership activities to provide Indigenous youth with active, positive opportunities. Entering into a three-year partnership with the AFL program, partner communities host two trained AFL Mentors who run youth-focused activities and trips each summer from May to August.
Each summer up to 10 Indigenous communities are accepted into the program and two AFL Mentors are placed in each community. AFL promotes and encourages Indigenous youth to engage in active, positive, healthy, creative lifestyles. In the summer of 2017 participating communities from across the province included the Dene Tha’- Bushe River, Tallcree First Nation, Whitefish Lake First Nation #459 – Atikameg, Sucker Creek First Nation, Heart Lake First Nation, Whitefish Lake First Nation #128 –Goodfish Lake and the Kikino and Buffalo Lake Metis Settlements.
“The program runs from May to August,” noted Grevlund. “Our AFL Mentors are employees of the host community who will work as in-community mentors who will teach and share meaningful life skills through activities, special events and field-trips. Depending on the needs and aspirations of the community involved, we offer programming that can include such things as canoeing, drama, baseball, visual arts, music, archery, volleyball, hockey, basketball and more.”
Last summer the AFL program had a tremendous impact on Indigenous Youth in the participating communities as youth participated over 7200 times in a variety of programs that included everything from physical activity & sport to arts, culture and special events. Over the years AFL Mentors have run everything from campfires, cultural camps and art programs to rafting trips and hockey tournaments; activities are based on the unique needs of the host Indigenous community.
“Every community has different needs and as such we work together to offer flexible programs that meet the needs and the requirements of each community,” noted Grevlund. “All of our programs are designed to promote physical fitness, healthy eating, positive lifestyles and active communities.”
Though all youth in the communities are encouraged and welcomed to participate, the average age of community youth participating in the program ranges between the ages of 9 and 16.
“We have two mentors in each community and partner with up to the 10 communities each year,” explained Grevlund, who said the program is currently seeking 18-20 Mentors for the 2018 program.
The Alberta’s Future Leaders program provides a valuable holistic experience for the Mentors, who get as much or more from their time working with a community as the youth get from them during their stay.
“Those who join us this summer will participate in a unique undertaking that is not only rewarding and challenging, but even life-changing, for both community members and Mentors,” assured Grevlund. “We receive a great deal of positive feedback from the communities and the Mentors every year; some of our Mentors have even made career choice changes after spending a summer working with Indigenous youth. It’s a very positive experience.
“Alberta Sport Connection is very proud of the Future Leaders program as it continues to provide life changing opportunities and encourage positive community development from a sport, arts, recreation and cultural perspective while supporting the dreams of everyone involved with the program.”
Mentors come from varied backgrounds but they all have something in common: positive attitudes, active lifestyles and endless energy. As they live and work in the communities, the mentors build strong relationships with local youth, acting as positive role models and inspiring youth to be their best. Mentors are thoroughly trained and are well equipped for the summer activities they will participate in.
“Before the program begins,” explained Grevlund, “Mentors spend 8 days learning from our program facilitator, Elders, community members and past AFL mentors about the program, and communities they will be working with. Mentors will meet again during and after the summer to discuss best practices, address current successes and challenges that can be shared across all communities in the program.”
The Alberta Sport Connection, in partnership with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA), provides opportunities to help strengthen and empower youth who live in Indigenous communities in Alberta. ASC believes “investing in Alberta’s youth today will create a positive tomorrow.”
Click here for more information about the program and application process.