The Urban Native Youth Association is committed to involving youth in planning and developing programs as much as possible. We have included youth through community meetings, surveys, on our Board of Directors, as staff, in practicum positions, as summer students, and in training opportunities.
At least four of the nine positions on our Board of Directors are reserved for youth. Youth board members, in particular, have been very helpful in ensuring that UNYA remains youth focused, that youth voice is heard and responded to throughout the organization, that new programs are relevant to Native youth, and that youth needs are being positively addressed. UNYA’s Board members are committed to being active mentors and learners so that their Board term can be a fulfilling learning experience that will increase their skills and knowledge.
UNYA has conducted three surveys of Native youth that have helped us to identify their needs. This is a very important aspect of our work, as we feel that youth are the experts in their own lives. Youth input is essential in developing new programs, identifying youth needs, and ways to address those needs. Youth have been very helpful in both participating in surveys and in helping to conduct them.
Youth are very instrumental in ongoing program development through their input while participating in our programs and activities. Our staff are very aware that youth will not attend programs that are not relevant, welcoming, or safe for them to attend. So when youth provide feedback about different aspects of a program or activity, we give it very serious consideration, as we want our programs to be useful for youth. Sometimes we are unable to change things due to safety or regulations, but we try to adapt what we can to ensure that youth are able to influence the way programs are offered.
UNYA has been working to develop a new Native Youth Centre at Commercial and Hastings in the Eastside of Vancouver. Youth have been involved throughout this process through our Board of Directors, on the Building Advisory Committee, the Design Committee, Capital Campaign Committee, developing the Permanent Donor Recognition, developing marketing materials and the project logo, meeting with funders, and participating in focus groups, a community meeting, and on user groups during the facility program stages.
Youth have been hired for summer student positions for our different programs. We try to ensure that youth are given many opportunities to learn as much as they can about youth work during their time with us. Youth summer students have been particularly helpful in our Young Spirits Daycamp where they help to plan programming, supervise, and prove to be very good role models.
Whenever possible we try to hire youth to work for us in both short-term and permanent positions. Youth have been particularly helpful in our research and survey projects where they have worked as surveyors. After receiving training, these youth have been very instrumental in acquiring youth input by identifying and working with youth in the community. Whenever possible we try to teach youth new skills and give them new experiences in areas that they might not have the opportunity to acquire otherwise. As examples, three youth were hired to help create the Helping Hands Resource Manual and eight youth were hired to help conduct surveys of 223 Native youth of our new sports and recreation program.