by John Copley
(ANNews) – Are you a self-motivated post-secondary student and/or young adult who enjoys working with youth? If the answer is yes and you have prior involvement in sports, the arts, recreation, volunteerism and leadership initiatives, an opportunity of a lifetime awaits you this summer when the Alberta’s Future Leaders Program gets underway across the province. Application deadline is February 22.
The Alberta Future Leaders Program (AFL), an initiative of Alberta Sport Connection (ASC), is a unique undertaking that partners Alberta Indigenous communities, The Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the RCMP and corporate sponsors to provide youth aged 9 through 25 years 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 Scott Grevlund, one of three program coordinators who oversees the program, “creates life-changing opportunities for both our Youth/Art Mentors and for the youth they work with throughout the four-month long summer program in the host community.”
If you meet the qualifications and are interested in participating in a program designed to help make a positive difference in the lives of Alberta’s Indigenous youth, this is an ideal opportunity to use your sports, arts, recreation and cultural experiences to positively affect the lives of youth in Alberta’s First Nation and Métis 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 to 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,” explained Sport Development Director Eoghan Curran, “not only benefits the youth of the communities, it also provides a valuable holistic experience for the Mentors, who get as much or more from their time working with a community. 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.”
Each summer up to 10 Indigenous communities are accepted into the program and two mentors are placed in each community as a Youth or Arts Mentor. AFL promotes and encourages Indigenous youth to engage in active, positive, and healthy lifestyles.
“The program runs from May to August,” noted Grevlund. “Our Youth and Arts Mentors are paid for their participation and will act 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, archery, volleyball, hockey, basketball and more.”
Over the years, AFL youth mentors have run everything from campfires and cultural 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 10 communities each year,” explained Grevlund, who said the program is currently seeking 18-20 mentors for the 2017 program.
Participating communities in 2016 included the Tallcree First Nation, Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement, Kehewin Cree Nation, Kikino Métis Settlement, Whitefish Lake First Nation 128 (Goodfish Lake), Sucker Creek First Nation, Whitefish Lake First Nation (Atikameg) and Boyle Street Community Services/iHuman.
Since its inception in 1996 the AFL program, through the Alberta Sport Connection and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, has partnered with 43 Indigenous communities across Alberta. The initiative has five key components: Intensive Mentor Training, Role Modelling, Program, Camps and Trips, Leadership Camp and Partnerships.
“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.”
Mentors come from various 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.
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 First Nation and Métis communities in Alberta. ASC believes that “investing in Alberta’s youth today will create a positive tomorrow. Our partners share this philosophy and together we create opportunities for youth across the province to realize their potential.”
For more information about the program and application process visit albertasport.ca and search Future Leaders.
Those interested in participating as a Youth or Arts Mentor are encouraged to send a cover letter and resume indicating their position preference to [email protected]. For telephone inquiries call (780) 422-9254.