Youth coordinator working her way out of a job

  • Sep. 24, 2003 2:00 p.m.

Julie Jensen hopes to work herself out of a job soon by helping islands youth create an organization they can ultimately run themselves, Heidi Bevington writes.
A group of concerned islanders created the Haida Gwaii Youth Society last winter when the province cut funding for the islands’ youth centres in Queen Charlotte and Masset. With some funding from the Gwaii Trust, the society hired Ms Jensen in early August as interim coordinator to talk to youth about what they want for themselves and to help them create their own opportunities.
The society wants to create tangible projects that are empowering for youth. Projects that youth can feel ownership for and see themselves as creative people who can contribute to the community and create future opportunities for themselves, says Ms Jensen.
“We are losing our youth, not just in Canada, but in Europe as well. I find that youth seem to be lost in a limbo-land, where there is little active guidance to steer them in a positive direction,” says Ms Jensen.
The first two projects will be a Youth Newsletter written and produced by youth. The first edition hits the streets early next month. For November, the society will organize a youth retreat.
The youth society represents people aged 12-24, says Ms Jensen, with 450-500 islanders fitting into that age group. By creating an incorporated organization, the society will be able to access funding from on and off island. The society will first consult with islands youth to see what activities they want for themselves, and then involved interested youth in opportunities to make the society their own. “The ultimate aim is to have a group of youth for youth so youth have a united voice,” says Ms Jensen. Part of her job is to train an interested island youth to take over her job when her contract is finished.
Ms Jensen brings years of experience working with youth in Europe and Canada. Most recently she managed the National Project for Youth at Risk, work that brought her to Masset last February for a 10-day program called the A-Game. She also visited in March to observe the all islands symposium. When the coordinator position came available, she decided Masset was the place she wanted to be. At this point she plans to be on the islands until February when her contract with the youth society ends. “I’m having a blast and loving it,” she says.