What? A fee-free program run by the Leacock Foundation that facilitates civic engagement, social responsibility, leadership, and community action planning for youth. Take the LEAD participants work together to identify an issue in their community and then create an action plan in an effort to take steps toward resolving or improving it. Upon completing their action plans, each Take the LEAD group travels to Ottawa over March Break to present their plans in either the Assembly of First Nations or in Parliament, and also present to Ontario MPPs and City Councillors at Toronto City Hall.
Where? In community centres inour Toronto partner communities: Scarborough, St. James Town, Keele-Finch and the urban Aboriginal community
When? Twice per week after school from October to April
Who? Students in Grades 7 and 8 from our Toronto partner communities led by Take the LEAD program directors and volunteer high school students
Why? Grades 7 and 8 are an important transition period for young people between elementary school and high school. The decisions they make can shape their high school experience. Meaningful after-school engagement in accessible programs like Take the LEAD is important at this age, as leadership, civic engagement, and teamwork are empowering and are all valuable skills for both academic and personal development throughout adolescence. After presenting their Community Action Plans in Ottawa, the majority of Take the LEAD participants report feeling empowered and motivated to remain engaged and continue to participate in their communities.
“The program gave me an opportunity that changed my whole point of view and it was fun because I changed my community as well. It gave me a chance to share my thoughts and opinions.” -Alexa, Participant
Alexa, a student in St. James Town, worked with her group throughout the 2015/2016 school year to address the lack of lighting in a community tunnel. Better lighting would make community members feel safe and discourage crime. Take the LEAD has empowered Alexa and her peers to make a difference, and to advocate for change. Her action plan, and those created by her peers, have a life beyond the program as they continue to positively impact their community. For youth like Alexa, developing strong leadership and advocacy skills is valuable, employable and practical.