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Yo Bro | Yo Girl: Transforming at-risk youth into confident leaders

Posted by SVP Vancouver
Yo Bro | Yo Girl and Governer General

From humble beginnings working with thirty youth in 2009, to currently serving 450 vulnerable, at-risk youth, Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative has made significant strides in a very short time – and they’re poised on the edge of exciting growth for the next year. Their strength-based programs currently reach youth in four high-need communities and also provide educational awareness in the Vancouver, Surrey and Chilliwack school districts.

Yo Bro’s purpose is to keep kids safe, in school, and positively connected to their communities. Yo Bro | Yo Girl youth are motivated and equipped with the tools to avoid drugs and violence, pursue education, and set positive goals for the future. These resilient young leaders serve as ambassadors and living examples of how “at-risk” youth can be transformed into capable, confident, respected, and contributing members of society.

One of the most significant developments this past year was the creation of dedicated programming for girls under the “Yo Girl” banner. With essential funding from the Vancouver Police Foundation, they introduced KNOW means NO, a five week in-school program to address the issue of violence against women. With the growing diversity of programs for both boys and girls, the organization is now referred to as the Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative.

In the 2014/15 school year, 300 youth in seven schools participated in a wide range of programs, amounting to 40 hours of programming per week. This school year, Yo Bro | Yo Girl is working with 450 youth in eleven schools, increasing their programming to 50 hours per week.

One of the key outcomes of their programs is to develop the skills and confidence of youth to achieve their potential in life and community. This past year, 25 Yo Bro | Yo Girl participants were mentored and trained to become Youth Leaders, and ten graduates have progressed to become paid Program Assistants. These two roles not only provide a path for personal growth, they help scale the delivery of programs with a dynamic, experienced team of facilitators. As part of this initiative, Yo Bro | Yo Girl developed an eight session “Foundations in Leadership” program which must be completed by all Program Assistants, Youth Leaders, and volunteers.

Based on the academic and scientific theory of a strengths-based approach to empowering and developing youth, Yo Bro | Yo Girl is committed to measuring impact in a rigorous manner to guide program development. With the expertise of a post-graduate student from the UBC Faculty of Education, they are designing a formal program evaluation to be conducted on an annual basis with participant youth going forward.

As a young charity, Yo Bro | Yo Girl continues to work hard to develop its donor base. Last year, they more than doubled the amount of funds raised to $280,000 with 28 unique donors, including a first-ever grant from Surrey City Council. Through a dedicated effort of stakeholder outreach by staff and board, Yo Bro | Yo Girl has established new and deeper relationships with teachers, counselors, municipal leaders, and community partners. They have secured funding for two scholarships for their participants and entered into a job placement partnership with a local trucking company.

Stay tuned for more exciting Yo Bro | Yo Girl news coming soon!