NYA is successful and very effective 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. 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 youths 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.
The NYA Difference
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. We 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. 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.
Circle of Support
A network of supportive adults and peers surrounds each Participant. This begins at the community level by identifying an adult “mentor” who can help them with their NYA assignments. Additionally, NYA Alumni are encouraged to assist current Participants if possible. During placement, Participants have the support of their Host Family, Work Placement Supervisor, Placement Buddy, the NYA Staff, and Facilitation team. NYA has a Mental Health Worker who can also be made available for the youth to speak to. Building strong relationships promotes success and achievement during placement. This network can continue to be called upon after program completion in support of Participants’ long-term goals.
Nearly every element of NYA’s programming can be adapted or tailored to meet specific needs. Whether this is simplifying assignments for those who are learning at a lower grade level or have low literacy, finding a work placement that can provide an environment for a Participant with mobility issues, or pairing a very shy Participant with a buddy who is both outgoing and empathetic, we take care in providing the experience best suited for promoting success.
One of NYA’s core principles is to take measured risk in support of the best interests of each Participant. We acknowledge that Participants come from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances and work hard to accommodate any special needs they may have. For example: in many cases, we are able to support Participants who are pregnant or are young parents, who may have been in conflict with the law, who have extenuating health needs (both physical and emotional), or may have faced a variety of challenges or trauma in the past. While there are limits to what we can accommodate, our general intent is to provide this opportunity to as many Participants as possible.
Past Participants are encouraged to remain engaged in all aspects of NYA and its programs. Alumni can relate extremely well to the challenges Participants face when leaving home and taking part in NYA programs. Members of the Alumni serve as Facilitators, Board Members, and sit on committees to select Participants and Host Families. By nurturing an ongoing investment in Alumni, NYA can help each build their own skills through volunteerism with our organization.