Dropping in on the Dynamic Duo

Meet Bernice Orowale and DeVaughn Shaw, the two leaders who started a drop-in and creative arts program in early 2017. They’re giving youth in the neighbourhood more than another reason to love Fridays

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection with ICO.

Bernice (B): I’m a second year Kinesiology student at York. I love to be active whether through sports or some kind of fast-paced activity. I also really enjoy singing and listening to music, it just makes everything so much better. One of my passions is working with youth and children. Just to see the joy and innocence in their hearts and eyes brings joy to my heart. A few years ago I volunteered at the ICO fundraising gala and I’ve been involved since then. This year I get to lead a new program along with DeVaughn, which I am so excited about.
DeVaughn (D): I’m a 24 year-old Christian studying psychology at York. I have been volunteering for 4 years through running the Revolution Basketball Program and recently co-lead the Friday drop-in program.

2. What’s your program about and why do you think it’s important?

(D): The Friday drop-in program is a place where youth can participate in various engaging activities, games and sports. We really desire to create an environment where we can build strong and healthy relationships with the youth of this community and create good mentoring opportunities.
(B): The Creative Arts program is where girls and guys can come and express themselves through different aspects of art such as dance, music, writing, painting etc. The generation of youth we have today are very visually- and auditory-inclined and this program allows those who don’t necessarily play sports to have an outlet to express who they are. I believe God has installed different gifts and talents in each of them that can be used for His glory.

3. Did you previously know the youth in the program? What are they like?

(B): I knew most of them through volunteering with Urban Promise last year. There are some new faces that I wasn’t familiar with, which is great to see. They are AMAZING!!! I love them all so much because they each have such unique personalities. Their energy levels are off the roof! (I thought I had energy but these youth are another story…) I see so much potential in them to overcome obstacles and inspire change around them.
(D): Most of the kids in our program are new to me so it was initially a bit challenging trying to get to know them for the first time. Building trust takes time; it isn’t something that happens over night. While it may be difficult at times, it is something that we strive to do. We want them to know that they are genuinely cared for.

4. In your opinion, what challenges do youth face today that is the same as what you dealt with growing up? What’s different?

(D): I think teenagers today face the same challenges that I and some of my peers faced when we were younger. Some struggle with issues of identity, wanting to fit in with the popular crowd while some are easily influenced by local gang activity. You could hear it in the way they talk or see it in the way they act.
(B): I agree. One common theme is finding who they are and what their identity is in. It is so easy for many to follow when they don’t know who they are and who created them. The difference between the youth today and the youth in my time is the curiosity they have. Many adolescents in the community are left alone for several hours every day and that’s when they begin to explore. They can get involved in different situations because there is no one there to guide and help them when they have questions.

5. What do you look forward to as a youth leader?

(D):I look forward to getting to know the youth better. As Christians, we want to do our best to model Christ-like behavior, build relationships and be solid mentors as they navigate through this season of their life.
(B): Yes, I also desire to create real, honest and meaningful relationships with the youth. My personal goal is to see youth in our programs inspire cycles of positive change among their friends and others within their spheres of influence. I would love to see them become leaders and continue to use their giftings, energies and resources for good.

6. In your opinion, what makes youth who live in Jane and Finch special?

(B): Youth who live in Jane and Finch are one special group because they have so much determination to be better and greater. The have such big dreams and goals for themselves which inspires me to continue to help them reach those goals.

7. Do you have any tips on how to connect with youth?

(B): You can find what they are interested in or something that you have in common and start a relationship from that. All they want is your time and to have fun.
(D): I think it’s important to be real and vulnerable. There isn’t a striking difference between the leaders and the youth, except that we are older. We all make mistakes, but we can all grow and learn from our mistakes. We can’t force them to make good decisions but we can do our best to model positive behavior in hopes that they would choose to do the same.