How We Do It
NYA is successful because it is focused exclusively on the north. NYA was created by northerners to address specific northern issues and enhance the opportunities for northern youth. By being focused on the unique needs of the north and its people, NYA’s programs are the best opportunity for northern youth to achieve success and reach their potential, becoming the future leaders in their communities and territories.
NYA meets a growing imperative for initiatives that enhance the confidence and worldview of northern youth. There are many leadership opportunities at the community, territorial, national, and international level that exist in both the public and private sectors for northerners to assume. Our program is designed to encourage and enable youth to grow into and seize these opportunities. Many northern communities and their youth face challenges associated with high percentages of school dropouts, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, and limited opportunities for travel. Having limited access to education and training options magnifies these challenges. Research has demonstrated that many successful northern youth share the common experience of travel and encountering life outside of their community for a period of time. It was on the basis of this research that a group of Northern educators came together to develop NYA. While there are other travel and exchange programs to which northern youth can apply, these programs often experience difficulties in recruiting and retaining northern youth because they are structured for youth living in the south.
NYA is different. What had been lacking until the program’s creation was a significant and permanent education and leadership program specifically designed to meet the unique needs of northern youth. NYA considers the culture, language, school structure, family structure, and kinds of travel northern youth experience when designing and implementing its programming. It is NYA’s policy is to facilitate and ensure that each Participant creates a support network to help him/her complete the program requirements while they prepare to travel to either southern Canada or Internationally. Furthermore, NYA understands the challenges faced by northern youth when travelling outside their territory and operates week-long orientation and re-orientation sessions which every participant attends. These sessions are specifically designed to address issues of culture shock, cross-cultural communication, cultural differences and homesickness that are unique to youth travelling with NYA.
Another way in which NYA responds to the needs and interests of Participants is by making every effort to provide them with work experience that is relevant to their individual career aspirations. NYA puts considerable effort into integrating job training and skills development opportunities into all aspects of its programming. As a result of these efforts, each NYA Participant dedicates approximately 175 hours towards the development of their occupational interests and building essential skills for the work place. Work placements are arranged primarily based on the specific occupational interests of participants to provide them with the opportunity not only to gain valuable professional skills, but to acquire experience in a field they are considering as a career.
Past work placements have included positions in education, administration, recreation, tourism, the high-tech sector, and the trades, among others. In each case, Participants spend a minimum of 125 hours at their work placements and gain transferable skills and hands on experience. Participants return to their communities in mid-August with a clearer sense of their future career and education interests.
Each youth completes a final assignment package requiring them to update their individual skills assessments and resumes. They also complete a Career Planning Project – where they outline their current skills and occupational interests and match them with career opportunities. They identify the qualifications (including education, training, and experience) they may need to pursue their identified career goals. In many cases, the Participants’ summer experiences have a direct effect on their future aspirations.