The Young Eagle Leadership Program in Quesnel is being considered a great success, and six youth graduated in February 2020. (Photo submitted)

Young Eagle Leadership Program in Quesnel a great success

Youth met twice a week to discuss reconciliation and how to make a difference in the community

As the facilitator/co-ordinator, I was asked to write a report about our Young Eagle Leadership Program (YELP) here at the Tillicum Society in Quesnel, a success story of about 10 youth (our original goal was to have five Indigenous and five non-Indigenous participants).

We were meeting twice a week at the centre to discuss reconciliation and how we can make a difference in our community. The program started in May of 2019, and six youth graduated in February of 2020, ready to go out into the community to present workshops for different clientele.

In everybody’s opinion, the program was a success, but how do we measure success?

So far, (April 2020), we were not able to deliver a workshop because, like the rest of the world, everything came to a halt because of COVID-19.

But even without our workshops, the group was a success story for every participant and everybody the group has touched.

In February, the participants graduated from the Young Eagle Leadership Program with a “Young Eagle workshop facilitator” certificate, which they worked hard for.

I would like to share parts out of one of the speeches a youth wrote for that special event:

“Hello everybody, my name is H., I would like to thank our funders in Ottawa, Service Canada. I also want to thank Uwe for facilitating, Karima for her knowledge and wisdom, and everyone for being here today and all of the Young Eagles who came to the meetings twice a week, every week, for close to a year actually. That just brought into my perspective that this (YELP) is a great place to go to after school.

My friend kind of dragged me to the program, told me that I should join, told me that it would be a great thing to put on my resumé.

To be honest, that was my only intention going into it. But then as I kept coming, as I kept learning, especially listening to survivors of residential schools really helped me to understand the effects of things that the Canadian government did in the past and how the ripple effect impacted every community throughout Canada and how reconciliation is such an important issue that we need to tackle. I learned different perspectives from everyone who came to the group, especially from Karima, especially from Uwe. Every single Tuesday and Thursday that I came, I learned something new, even if it was something small, and for that, I’m grateful…”

This speech for me, as a facilitator, made me very proud, and it also indicated to me the success of our program and how much each participant “matured” during this time.

The group met twice a week. We started with a talking circle and a smudge, followed by a meal. We discussed ways to communicate, the benefits of volunteering for the individual and the community. Through a fun scavenger hunt in our community, we explored important community resources. We learned about Indigenous history in the Cariboo. During a visit to Barkerville, we discovered that there is a rich Indigenous history, which is worth being told.

We discussed Phillis Webstad’s story (Orange Shirt Day) and how one person can make a difference.

We watched the movie Indian Horse, based on the novel by Richard Wagamese, and discussed the residential school experiences with Elders from our community, who joined our meetings and answered our questions (and opened out eyes).

We invited many guest speakers, and we participated in a drum workshop where we walked out with more than a drum.

The group served Elders during a gathering, and on a rainy weekend in the fall, we picked berries with Elders who connected us with old traditions (boy, are these Elders fast in filling the buckets…).

Another highlight was the songwriting workshop with the Snotty Nose Rez Kids, a hip hop band from Hazelton; two cool guys who are fun to hang out with.

We participated in a Rotary event to raise money for a local charity and to raise money for women in Africa. We participated as a group in the “walk for sobriety” with our community for one evening.

The Young Eagles had a busy schedule that year, and it was time well spent. We all (including Karima and myself as facilitators) learned a lot as a group and as individuals. I know that all youth from the program will walk out into the community and will be a part of the necessary reconciliation process, which is long overdue.

COVID -19 stopped us from delivering the workshops (for now!!!), but it will not stop the youth from making our community a better place.

One of the youth said to me in one of our meetings, “We stepped in the past, to understand the present, so we can work on a better future.” Wow, that sounds like success to me.

A special thank you to all Elders who took their time to share their wisdom (and the Tillicum Society staff). The Young Eagles helped the Elders during this program, but somehow, deep inside, I know that it was the other way around….

The Quesnel Tillicum Society plans to start a new group in the near future. If you are interested, please contact the Tillicum Society at 250-992-8347.

— Submitted by Young Eagle Leadership Program facilitator/co-ordinator Uwe Beuschel


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