As students navigate the employment landscape with their future careers in mind, they often require a little ‘head start’ on their journey to success. The landscape for work has changed drastically over the last decades and necessitates preparation to be ready to compete in the job market.  

The YMCA Head Start program is designed to help junior and senior high school students access guidance, support, and opportunity to network. Head Start provides students with a training allowance during this summer program, while helping them invest in their own futures. By providing a paid training opportunity that includes workshops, career planning, digital literacy, and volunteer opportunities, the YMCA is spearheading a generation of youth to be connected to their communities and ready to thrive in business.  

The students’ final project in the program is to develop a business plan and operate a business. They often design/create a product which they market and sell to the public.  

“The youth always make money, and they keep their earnings from their business. Some of the youth donate a portion of what they made to community programs such as a seniors program in their community” – Rebekah Skeete, Director, Nova Scotia Works Employment Services Centre 

Their generosity doesn’t end there. The youth are also involved with the YMCA Community Action Network (YCAN), and they identify a need within their own community, come up with a project to address it, and follow it through. Over the years the students have done community cleanups, worked with their senior centers, put together food baskets for their neighbours in need, built community gardens and more.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Head Start has been conducted online, but the benefit of fun activities and adventures has remained thanks to lessening restrictions. Appropriately named “Adventure Camps”, the leaders coordinate a multitude of fun and engaging activities for the participants to get them out together networking and creating connections among their peers. Some of the best have been deep sea fishing, ziplining, beach days, kayaking, and go-karting.  

The YMCA Head Start program was designed to be inclusive of all our youth who want to take advantage of career resources for future employment. It accommodates newcomers to Canada (some of whom are English Second Language speakers), people with disabilities, students with learning challenges, and has a special focus on the African Nova-Scotian community, with cohorts in East Preston and North Preston.  

The Head Start participants reported that they most enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people, connect with their peers, learn about interviews and resumes and of course… the Adventure Camps. To learn more about YMCA Head Start, check out https://ymcahfx.ca/youth-leadership/