ACCESS reflects and looks ahead in annual message
One year in the life of a youth-run, non-profit organization quickly passes – yet is jam-packed with progress, challenges, changes and goals. The calendar year of 2013 – the final year of our 2-year Ontario Trillium Foundation funding – included much planning and change as we continued to deliver fresh programming and active community involvement.
The last few years, I have written a year-end message in a format similar to this. For 2013 I would like to note that, while this is a list and description of major activity, there are countless contributions, presentations, events, acts of kindness, student stories, connections, meetings, role changes, partnerships and more that would leave this page crowded and in-cohesive. We are proud and thankful of the dedication of our team, partners, funders, volunteers and of program participants who have been present at various points throughout the year. The journey continues, as ACCESS and its team evolves and grows.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to read on, even briefly, to recap ACCESS' busy year.
In January, we kicked off 2013 by opening registration for our Youth Making a Difference Conference, hosting an Innovation Challenge, working with our Team Empower students, and fundraising at York University. We will take you through everything as briefly as possible, below.
Take-Off for Team Empower Team Empower, our pilot Youth Ambassador program, emerged in the 2012-2013 school year, geared toward high school students who want to become leaders and have the passion to go out and inspire positive change – starting in their own high schools. Ambassadors from across the Peel Region – representing schools from both Peel District School Board and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board – attended regular sessions with guest speakers, organized their own events, and hosted ACCESS workshops within their schools.
Continued Activity from ACCESS U Campus Clubs Our active chapter at Wilfrid Laurier University, ACCESS U – Laurier, hosted the Laurier Innovation Challenge with LiTC. Focused on social entrepreneurship, the case challenge focused on Education and creating a stronger system for students, offering young leaders a chance to to collaborate around an important topic. A summary of the event is at accessu.ca/futureofeducation. Also in 2013, new ACCESS U Campus Clubs have launched at both the University of Waterloo and McMaster University.
Community Challenge: Youth Making a Difference Conference, Spring 2013 On the World Day of Social Justice in February, we hosted our 5th Annual Youth Making a Difference Conference. Our largest YMAD to date, the event took place at University of Toronto Mississauga, and featured a huge variety of speakers and facilitators – from a social entrepreneur visiting from Ghana to an empowering keynote on from a creativity architect, community builder and designer. We hosted 5 distinct topics – Poverty Alleviation, Environmental Issues, Diversity and Inclusion, Aboriginal Issues, and Mental Health – with local experts on each. Some of our favourite feedback came from students on Twitter, which can be read here. The local news filmed a feature story, available below.
Speaking Up for Change in-person with Youth Workshops In April, we hosted our first-ever Speak Up for Change Workshop Series – free workshops for youth, with discussion centred on key social issues. The theme of this series revolved around Bullying and Inclusion – issues which had taken centre stage in the news, and in the minds of many young people (including those at our YMAD conference). We have made the free workshops available on YouTube. This series was an opportunity for our Media/Journalism Co-Op student from University of Guelph-Humber to be involved in the planning, promotion and coverage of a youth program (based around our own media platform, SpeakUpForChange.ca).
Working with ACCESS: Student Placements Throughout the Summer at ACCESS, we had the opportunity to welcome 2 High-School Co-Op students and one intern. The students gained experience in the Non-Profit Sector, a requirement of their Specialist High Skills Major.
Making Connections The summer and fall included networking and new connections for our future direction. We partnered with a group of youth innovators to host a first for Peel Region: A collaborative discussion on Youth Social Entrepreneurship, in the format of a GenImpact Social. Earlier in the year, we participated in Community Consultations with the United Way of Peel Region's Young Leaders Council, developed and facilitated a Diversity/Equity conference for a Brampton Family of Schools in the DPCDSB, and spoke at Be Good Be Social on using Social Media for Social Good, to name a few.
YMAD6: Youth Making a Difference Conference, Fall 2013 In November, we hosted our 6th Youth Making a Difference Conference, this time re-designed to be fast-paced and highly participatory, on a smaller scale. Students learned and practiced skills needed for social action. They created concepts in groups, of which we selected 3 projects (from 2 high-schools in Mississauga and Brampton) to work with ACCESS and their schools to have their projects developed and turned into action. A recap with videos is available on our YMAD website.
Collaboration to Continue: Speak Up for Change Workshops with STEP As a young grassroots group, the STEP team has been working with ACCESS to develop and strengthen their student-run organization, so we decided to work with STEP to develop and plan our next Speak Up for Change Workshop Series. The goal of these free workshops is to provide youth in the Peel Region with the opportunity to become aware of their potential to take action and collaborate. With one being hosted this month in December, a 3-part series is planned for February 2014.
Transitioning Our Location As our 2-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation comes to an end, so does our time at The Community Door, which has been our home-base in Brampton since the spring of 2012. While we have officially moved out of this office, ACCESS remains an active member of the Brampton and Mississauga communities, and works with many Peel-based organizations. In 2014, in addition to our work in Peel, we will have a home in Toronto — helping us to serve the GTA region as a whole.
A Really Big Thank-You. We experienced transitions and triumphs, and sincerely appreciate your support. For all of our announcements this past year, visit accesscharity.ca/2013 and our active Facebook Page and Twitter.
On behalf of the ACCESS team, best wishes to you for the upcoming year!
Daniel Francavilla, Founder + Executive Director ACCESS: Allowing Children a Chance at Education