Partnering with young leaders
When the members of Dorset Park’s Youth Council said they needed a safe space in their community, they never imagined they would be designing two facilities.
Helping youth get back on track
“I found an organization that would actually help me be above that — that past.” Need a transit token? A lift to a job interview? Redemption Reintegration Services’ young staff helps young people who’ve been in trouble turn their energies positive.
We’re helping kids be all they can be
At United Way Toronto, we feel that giving kids a good start in life is one of the best ways to ensure they grow up to be healthy, successful adults. We work to improve access to supports such as parenting programs, early childhood learning and child development programs. When it comes to putting young people on the path to success, it goes beyond helping one kid at a time—it means supporting entire communities and working to improve outcomes at a systemic level. We help kids be all that they can be by supporting agencies and programs that will help them do well in school, graduate on time and make a successful transition into post-secondary education and adulthood.
Providing help to kids when they need it most
Of United Way Toronto’s 90 membership agencies serving youth, Braeburn Neighbourhood Place is a shining example of a multi-service agency that provides crucial programs for at-risk children and youth, and their families. Serving the priority neighbourhood of Rexdale, Braeburn Neighbourhood Place offers a licensed day care, family resource programming, parent-child programs, boys’ and girls’ club activities, school readiness programs, and a breakfast program funded by United Way Toronto. Kids with full bellies lead a happier, healthier life and they learn much faster. It’s about making sure that kids have access to the basic necessities like food so that they can grow strong and become all that they want to be.
Founded in 1910, University Settlement is a multi-service agency that helps more than 30,000 people each year—in fact, it’s been a member agency since United Way Toronto first opened its doors in 1956. They run recreational activities for children and offer after-school programming for youth like their Music and Arts program and Urban Girls, which is an innovative program that helps build the self-esteem and confidence of young women by bringing them together for quality time filled with arts, exercise, homework help, day trips, and other activities the girls choose.
Changing systems to make things better for youth
Kids can’t achieve success unless they are raised in a healthy, strong environment, which is why United Way Toronto is working in the long term to strengthen our communities—but we can’t do it alone. We’re building a better future for youth by working in partnership and by mobilizing people and resources to address the root causes of our city’s shared challenges. By working with our frontline agencies, community partners, the private sector and all levels of government, we’re making things better for our city’s youth. For example, through the Youth Challenge Fund, United Way Toronto has helped launch innovative initiatives targeting at-risk youth in priority neighbourhoods across the city. Working in partnerships with others in the community, we helped open our public schools to summer youth programming, facilitated the expansion of Pathways to Education, and continue to build stronger relationships with our network of health and social service agencies.
- The Youth Challenge Fund (YCF) is a partnership between the Government of Ontario and United Way. YCF has brought together government and privately raised funds to support a total of 111 youth-led initiatives in the 13 priority neighbourhoods. These initiatives have provided opportunities for over 12,000 racialized youth living in these communities to build leadership skills, connect with experienced mentors, partner with community organizations and public institutions, and most importantly, lead positive change in their neighbourhoods. YCF’s unique approach challenges the entire community to work collaboratively—as youth leaders, adult allies and public institutions—to mentor and make space for each other, build capacity and gain the skills they need to lead systemic transformation in their community. The Government of Ontario launched YCF with an initial $15-million investment in 2006. By 2009, United Way had successfully raised another $15.8-million through private sector and individual donations—money which the Province then matched, bringing the total YCF investment to $46.6-million.
- Pathways to Education is an innovative and successful stay-in-school initiative that works to reduce high school dropout rates, increase access to post-secondary education, improve academic performance, and reduce school suspensions. With United Way Toronto’s investment of $10-million over four years, Pathways has expanded from its original site in Regent Park to three priority neighbourhoods—Lawrence Heights, Rexdale and Scarborough Village. The results speak for themselves: these communities have succeeded in reducing the number of students at risk of not graduating by up to 52 percent, and have reduced absenteeism by up to 43 percent in just one year. When the program first began in Regent Park eight years ago, the dropout rate was 56 percent. Today it’s less than 10 percent among youth who participate in the program. Of those who graduated from Pathways in Regent Park, 80 percent have gone on to post-secondary education—and 90 percent of these students are the first in their families to do so.
- Focus on Youth is a joint initiative of the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, designed to keep Toronto’s youth engaged and productive during the summer holidays. With funding from United Way Toronto and the Ontario Ministry of Education, the program opens schools as community space and offers thousands of children and youth access to recreational, learning, leadership and employment opportunities in underserved neighbourhoods across Toronto.