A massive growth in membership was followed by an impactful string of fundraising and awareness initiatives in the community. The COVID-19 pandemic did not stand a chance of halting the momentum of the group, as they reassembled online to finish the 2019-20 year on a high note.
Reflection now gives way to looking ahead towards the upcoming 2020-21 year, a period full of promise, but also one that will likely present a share of unique challenges. The coronavirus continues to loom over society, as do many longstanding social issues that have returned to the forefront of our collective conscience.
More now than ever, our youngest generations will be challenged to be the change in ways that prior generations could not. Participants in the SVP Teens program are realizing that they can make a difference in our community. Their voices are particularly influential when encouraging their peers to be part of the change.
“One thing I want to tackle is this generational apathy [among Gen Z’s], because I think we are the most aware kids [society has] seen because we have access to technology,” explained Grade 11 student and incoming 2020-21 SVP Teens Chair Maddie Cranston. “I want SVP Teens to [help participants] move from awareness into action, showing that step in between of how we can get from a place of knowing to a place of doing.”
As past leaders graduate, SVP Teens will lean on several new faces and new leaders in the upcoming program year. Maddie will replace Jocelyne ‘Joss’ Murphy as Chair of the program, with Nathan Wong, a Grade 9 student, returning as Vice-Chair (with a second Vice-Chair still to be selected). The team will include members from 15 local schools, a record for the program.
Ben Jackson, an SVP Teens alumnus and current financial mentor to the program, realizes how important the increased diversity has been and will continue to be for the group.
“It’s really become an all-encompassing group in the sense that, when we first started, the teens were all related to SVP Partners in some way. Now that requirement isn’t there, which has allowed the program to grow. They [have representation from] so many high schools around the region now, it’s brought a greater breadth and depth of participants to the program that’s allowed the group to uncover a lot of issues in our Region that I don’t think might have been considered when I was in it.”
The talent and ambition are there; the question now becomes how to translate that enthusiasm to action and engagement. With the COVID-19 restrictions remaining in place for now and preventing physical interactions, this topic has been front of mind for the program’s leaders:
“If we can’t meet in a big group and have that energy of having 85 kids in a room and getting them talking to each other, how do we do that online? Translating [the energy] to Zoom meetings and trying to find new ways to get people to know each other and build those connections. We are going to try break–out rooms where people get to brainstorm and bring their ideas to the table,” said Maddie.
“Being creative with the resources we have,” added Nathan. “Things that tap into our unique skills and things that we still can do, those things will help us keep that momentum.”
An important piece, championed by Joss, has been building relationships with and providing opportunities to all members. Joining the program as one of its younger members, this emphasis has not been lost upon Nathan:
“With Jocelyne, she seems to have a friendship with everyone in the program, which I think is very important because, at the end of the day, you are not just a commander, you’re a motivator. There is an importance in being a good role model, you need to practice what you preach.”
Another discussion has centered around mentoring opportunities that exist with the SVP Waterloo Region partner network just an arm’s length away. While Ben knows from experience that the opportunities are there for mentoring, he believes the right balance needs to be struck so that adult involvement doesn’t take away from the autonomy of the teens, a key to their success.
“The onus should be on the students, if they want to pursue that higher level of learning and want to go into greater depth with it, [connecting with SVP Partners or other adult mentors could] be a resource that they can reach out to,” he explained. “I think the important part is to make sure that the teens know that the mentors are available but that the onus is on them to reach out.”
As planning begins here in Waterloo Region for the year ahead, a development of a more global scale is brewing in the background:
“SVP International have reached out us regarding the SVP Teens and we have had initial conversations about the program and how it could be introduced in other areas,” said SVP Teens Program Coordinator Jill Mills.
Pioneered locally, the success of the teens has led to interest globally. As a result, Jill and the SVP Teens’ executive team are developing a program guide, which will explain the key structures, processes, and values in place that have allowed the program to grow and function at a high level.
However, while there may be exciting things in store for the program regarding expansion, the teens remain focused on their own path ahead.
“What being an SVP Teen really means is to get people to care about the issues facing the community,” concludes Nathan. “The way I would tell a young person to get involved is to figure out what you can do and do it. If you see something that is happening and you feel like you want to solve it, do everything you can to solve 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!