What would happen if a young person living in poverty was given the opportunity to snowboard, mountain bike, or try an outdoor adventure activity – one that they normally wouldn’t have access to? They might discover a passion and purpose to help them to steer clear of harmful activities. Zero Ceiling Society offers homeless and at-risk youth the chance to experience an alternative, positive lifestyle in the unique mountain culture of Whistler.
Over a span of 17 years, more than 4,000 youth have participated in the Society’s adventure programs. Each year the Daily Shred – a one-day adventure – provides 350 participants the chance to try mountain biking in summer and snowboarding or skiing in winter. The three-day Progression Session encourages participants to develop in their sport. The Adventure Sessions incorporate other activities, such as white water rafting, zip lining, and high ropes courses. In this healthy, outdoor environment, youth are simultaneously taught key life skills such as goal setting, skill building, team work, resilience and addressing barriers.
Youth who take part in these programs also have the opportunity to apply for Zero Ceiling’s life-changing six-month Work 2 Live (W2L) program. Participants are provided housing, employment, strengths-based life skills support, life coaching, one-to-one mentoring, development of snowboard or ski skills, and sports equipment. More than 60 participants have successfully completed W2L to date – this November four keen young adults began the 2014-15 Winter W2L program.
Matthew Morin is one of the participants in the Winter W2L program. Matt is no stranger to SVP Investees: he was a senior youth mentor at Yo Bro Youth Initiative and involved with former Investee Take a Hike Foundation. SVP is always delighted to see how the positive inspiration and connections made through one organization can translate into a variety of opportunities for youth as they grow up.
Zero Ceiling applied to become an SVP Investee in August, 2013. Although the Whistler location is outside SVP’s geographical mandate, it is mitigated by the fact that 80 percent of the Society’s participants are from Metro Vancouver. Lead Partners Geoff and Paola Telfer facilitated SVP’s 2014-15 grant of $45,000. Over the next three years, Zero Ceiling’s total financial ask to SVP is $100,000 with the intention to triple the number of youth attending the W2L program each year from four to 12.
“SVP has given Zero Ceiling the tools we need to scale the impact of our life-changing programs,” says Kasi Lubin, Executive Director. “With funding and employment contracts already secured, we are set to launch a summer Work 2 Live program, which is a goal we have had for years. The expertise and resources we now have available through SVP are invaluable and I know we have only just scratched the surface of what is possible.”
Zero Ceiling demonstrates an SVP non-profit’s ability to transform an individual’s life. Homeless and at-risk youth are exposed to new passions and possibilities once they get outside of their urban neighbourhoods and taste what mountain life offers. Through Zero Ceiling, they have a unique opportunity to carve a new path for themselves.