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After a strong showing at the Enactus Canada Regional Competition earlier this spring, 27 Okanagan College business students are heading across the country to once again assert their place among Canada’s best. One of the new projects they’ll be showcasing on the national stage is already having an accelerated impact in local classrooms.
For fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) student Jamie Park and her teammates, earning first-place at Regionals in Calgary in the Scotiabank Youth Empowerment Challenge for the Accelerate Youth project – one of Enactus OC’s newest initiatives – was a major confidence boost and a milestone in the project’s rapid development over the past year.
Accelerate Youth teaches practical life skills such as budgeting, banking, cooking and more to at-risk youth. Joining Park on the team are fellow business students Jessica Egyed, Jessica Overland and Marshall Kutyn.
The project began to take root when Christine Thygesen, an instructor and counselor at the Westside Learning Center, approached the College for an innovative solution and support to teach life skills to students in alternative schools.
“For students who have experienced difficulties in past academic endeavors, adolescence is often the time when they acknowledge their negative outlook on the future,” explains Thygesen. “My vision was to improve the mindset of these teens by creating a program that would support and accelerate them to their next level of potential through hands-on learning.”
Over a 10-week span made up of 20 sessions, Enactus OC teammates visited the Westside Learning Centre to work with students.
“We started with needs versus wants, something every teenager knows about,” explains Park. “After a few weeks the youth started to open up to us and come to realize the importance of financial and nutritional literacy. Once we had covered the basics, we started looking at credit, insurance and taxes.”
The students were soon buoyed by a partnership with a local non-profit organization, Start Fresh, which allowed them to add some hands-on culinary education for the students. Launched in 2016, Start Fresh serves up education on everything from kitchen skills to life skills in a wide variety of settings.
‘Working with Accelerate Youth has been a fantastic experience for our Chefs here at Start Fresh,” says Sarah Martin, Operations Manager at Start Fresh. “We were able to come in to the project, share our skills and knowledge with the students and have a lot of fun doing it. We’re always grateful to support and work with youth in a meaningful way.”
Accelerate Youth also received a $2,000 grant from the Central Okanagan Foundation for Youth and United Way Gennext, which provided the critical seed capital needed for its launch. So far, 25 youth have benefited from the program and the project partners are already looking at how it can be expanded to other regions and districts in future.
“It’s inspiring to see the collaboration between the Enactus team and the students who have built this incredible community learning environment,” says Enactus OC Faculty Advisor Dr. Kyleen Myrah. “The response from community partners who are offering their specialized expertise and financial support for this program has been outstanding. I am excited to see the future direction of Accelerate Youth.”
Enactus OC will be competing in three competitions at the National Exposition held May 14-16 in Toronto. Alongside Accelerate Youth, the entrepreneurial team will also highlight the Launch-a-Preneur and Start-up Weekend projects. The national team will present on all projects from the year. Alongside Myrah, three other Faculty Advisors – Dean Warner, Terry Kosowick and Scott Overland – will accompany and support the teams.