One year ago, the SVP Teens program faced a fork in the road that would determine its future.
Established in 2013, the program had plateaued. Growth had stagnated and for the program’s members to reach the goals they sought to achieve, the group needed a real breakthrough.
Jocelyne ‘Joss’ Murphy, a Grade 12 student and long–time SVP Teens member, proved to be the leader the team needed, getting right to work as Program Chair for the 2019-20 year.
All pathways forward started with recruiting. Joss emphasized the fact that she wanted the right people. Visionaries. Leaders. Builders. Teens that would be engaged and passionate making a real impact in Waterloo Region.
“They needed to be people who really cared and wanted to get involved. There were all these things I wanted to do, but I realized that I have to start with building a team,” Joss explained. “One of my biggest goals was to expand the group outside of my immediate connections. Get representation from lots of schools and ages.”
How the mission and vision of the program were received by young people around Waterloo Region could never have been anticipated. Applications flooded in from teens eager to join and make a difference. Soon, the group had expanded to over 80 members, many times larger than any of its prior iterations.
According to the team, the decisive factor was Joss and the values she stood for as a leader. She prioritized giving the teens increased autonomy and control over the direction of the program, a shift that provided all members with the confidence to pitch new ideas, take action, and create the change they wanted to see.
“Joss was really adamant that we were builders, we were going to create this program ourselves,” said Maddie Cranston, a Grade 11 student and incoming SVP Teens Chair for 2020-21. “Youth, a lot of the time, we have this built-in inferiority complex that our message is less important or what we can do is less valuable. We proved that youth aren’t just the future, we are also the present and we can build what we want to see around us.”
“I was struck by the genuineness of the program,” added Grade 9 student and SVP Teens Vice-Chair Nathan Wong. “It felt very action-oriented. I think SVP Teens does a really good job at giving us the tools and infrastructure to actually make the difference.”
With a strong and motivated team assembled, action became the theme for the group. Here are just a few of the SVP Teens’ accomplishments throughout the past year:
- Raised over $1,000 with their Bottle Drive fundraiser in September
- Engaged with potential sponsors in the Waterloo Region community throughout the fall
- Volunteered and fundraised at SVP Waterloo Region’s ‘Perfect Pitch’ event, with a panel of teens serving as pitch judges
- Ran a successful clothing drive in December in support of the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support
- Raised over $1,000 for their community grant through a COVID-19 Charity Livestream, which brought awareness to the needs of four local charities
- Created a ‘Wellness Card’ fundraiser during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing community members with the opportunity to stay connected with loved ones
- Completed the charity selection process as part of the SVP Teens grant initiative, awarding the Child Witness Centre with $3,500 in unrestricted funding
- Received program applications from teens at 15 local schools for the 2020-21 year
To keep the program on track, Joss dedicated a lot of her effort to building out an organizational infrastructure. This included an executive team, clearly laid out responsibilities for all involved, and more effective systems of communication.
SVP Teens alumnus Ben Jackson, who currently serves as a financial advisor to the program, saw this as the most important step taken over the past year.
“There’s actually a formal structure that’s made the program sustainable moving forward. Joss has done a great job at building out the program so that it’s easy for the future generations of the teens to step into those leadership roles, having understood by learning from the previous members how the organization operates. The older group leads it but provides the younger group with ample opportunity to learn and grow so that they are ready to take on that next step.”
The teens received a significant boost with the addition of Jill Mills to the SVP Waterloo Region staff as SVP Teens Program Coordinator. An experienced project manager with a background working on youth programs, including at the United Nations, Jill’s arrival was facilitated by funding received from the RBC Future Launch Community Challenge, Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation and the Jim and Sue Hallman Family Foundation.
“The timing of bringing Jill on in February was monumental, looking back, and the work the SVP Teens have done in the last four months has really been a credit to the position we added,” said SVP Waterloo Region Executive Director Rose Greensides.
“With SVP Teens, the thing that makes this group unique from the many other youth organizations out there is that it’s driven purely by the teens,” explained Jill when asked what attracted her to working with the program. “I am there as an adviser, to support them and keep them on track, but when it comes to the decision making, that is completely up to the teens.”
Having Jill on board has lessened the time and energy needed from the teens for administrative and organizational duties, allowing them to place greater focus on their community initiatives.
The significant strides made by the teens throughout the year have not gone unnoticed by other organizations either. The year ended on an especially proud note for all involved, as Joss was awarded $70,000 towards her upcoming studies at the University of Waterloo through the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership as a result of her work in growing SVP Teens.
She is quick to credit others around her for providing key opportunities and guidance:
“I’ve been so grateful, because SVP Teens, it’s been a platform for me. I have been involved and yes, I’ve driven a lot of the change to make it as big as it is today, but I started off with a brand, a charity to work with, and adult mentors who were willing to provide their support.”
One year on, the SVP Teens program is as healthy as it has ever been, despite all the challenges thrown the team’s way. While many aspects will continue to change and grow, the core values of speaking up and taking action will always remain.
Waterloo Region is better off for it.
Read the rest of the SVP Teens blog series:
Want to support the SVP Teens?
We are currently looking for donors to support the SVP Teens program this fall. If you are interested in supporting this amazing group of young philanthropists, please reach out to Jill Mills, SVP Teens Program Coordinator!