YLI is a free online program for young people ages 14-18 that allows them to create an artistic project that takes action on a social issue they care about. Youth have the opportunity to work with like-minded peers and receive guidance from professional artists and community leaders in 10 after-school sessions.
The projects that these young people bring to life vary — short films, comics, websites, and zines are just a few of the artistic mediums that past participants have chosen. Even the creative process of YLI looks a little different for each group as it’s informed by the participants and their interests. Over the next few weeks, we’ll hear more about the experience of YLI first-hand from members of three recent groups. Today’s YLI Insiders: Capital6ix.
Capital6ix is a group of teenagers based in Toronto and Ottawa that includes 16-year-olds Angel and Tishanna from Toronto. The group chose to focus their YLI project on increasing awareness about homelessness after being inspired by YLI guest speaker Marion Roberts, who is a caseworker with Street Health.
“That made us all really interested about […] voices that normally aren’t heard or wouldn’t be focused on […] we wanted to make them heard,” said Angel.
YLI facilitators Rachel Scrivo and monte neufeld suggested that a zine (a self-published booklet) would be the ideal format for the group’s project. Zines can easily be printed in addition to being displayed online, meaning that they’re an accessible resource for those without Internet access.
And so Support Sidekick: A Resource Chapbook was born. The group started to brainstorm micro topics that they wanted to cover in their zine, including issues that homeless people face on a daily basis like getting food and shelter, having access to bathrooms, and period poverty.
Once they had their topics, the teens got to work creating zine pages for each subject. Rather than assigning specific roles to each team member, Capital6ix had an easygoing collaborative atmosphere in which each group member contributed to various aspects of the project, like research and design.
For both Angel and Tishaana, YLI helped them build upon existing interests and skillsets. Tishaana used the YLI project to refine her graphic design skills with Canva, a tool she had some experience with prior to the program. She also practiced seeking out reliable resources for online research, something she had learned about in school.
Angel, on the other hand, got to further her interest in social justice. She was already an active member of her high school’s Social Justice Council but felt that YLI allowed her to expand her knowledge by learning about a wider range of issues.
In terms of the highlights of the program, the teens really appreciated the opportunity to connect with other students. Angel’s favourite part of YLI was the mental check-in or fun question that began each session because it prompted conversation and got the group excited to work together.
Tishaana enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate and felt it was important for the group to be able to share their ideas with each other for encouragement and feedback.
“It makes you feel like you’re not alone on this, [like] we’re all in this together,” she said.
The teens also learned new ways of thinking that they can put to use in their lives outside of YLI. Tishaana recognized that the critical thinking that helped the group specify the focus of their zine could also be used in her school projects.
“I was thinking ‘Wow, I could put this into practice at school when I’m doing research,’” she said. “Think more specifically, ask specific questions — What is the goal? What is the message we’re kind of sending?”
For Angel, YLI made her more open-minded, increasing her awareness of social issues that she didn’t know much about previously. Doing research informed her about these topics and now she feels she can help to educate others who are interested in the same issues.
“Being part of this program […] it really made me interested in issues around me,” she said.
Although their project focused on homelessness, Angel and Tishaana were inspired by several different topics during their time in YLI, and both teens enjoyed the experience so much that they’ve already registered for another session. This will give them the chance to work with new collaborators and address a different topic through the arts.
For these two young people, one of the things that keeps them coming back is the inclusive atmosphere.
“YLI to me was mostly really a safe place for new people to get together,” said Angel. “[…] Just being able to get together with people who had […] the same things that they were interested in made it really easy.”
See the results of Capital6ix’s work for yourself in Support Sidekick: A Resource Chapbook. It’s a fantastic resource to learn about the issues the homeless population faces and the ways you can support them.
Looking for your chance to take action using the arts? Another session of YLI is about to start! In addition to being an opportunity for young people to learn about art and inspire change, participants also receive a learner kit, free meals, and participation counts towards volunteer hours. Register online now for the next session of YLI!
YLI is proudly supported by RBC Foundation’s Future Launch Initiative.