Engagement, Leadership and Change



It has been a busy summer for the National Youth Mentoring Advisory Council (NYMAC)! If we were to use three words that summarize what’s been happening, we’d say: Engagement, Leadership and Change.

Let’s start with Engagement:

The best kind of organizational conventions include a mix of thought leadership, ample caffeine and food, and tons of opportunities to network. Big Brothers Big Sister’s National Convention in Toronto in June 2019 included all three of these. We would know – we were there. NYMAC members Karine and a few others have been attending and presenting at the National and Regional Conventions for the last several years and we have seen the face of the organization change. Before National Convention even started, there were other back to back activities we participated in. NYMAC attended the Toronto Pride Parade as members and allies of the LGBTQ2S+ community. We spent time discussing why visibility of mentoring support for this community is so important and we created signs to carry with messages we wanted to convey as we marched in the parade with It Gets Better Canada.

The following day, we woke up early (like really early) to hold our very first in-person NYMAC meeting where NYMAC member had a chance to present on and hear about issues affecting children and youth from the different regions across Canada. There were many similarities such as issues around youth employment, mental health, cost of education and housing, and violence experienced in many communities. We also heard about youth resiliency and ways that many communities are engaging young people through mentoring to make a difference.


This leads us to Leadership:

In including NYMAC and giving us a platform to share our thoughts and opinions, BBBS is doing its due diligence to ensure youth voice and decision making is a core component of how we do things at the national organization. Imagine being a youth serving organization but only addressing perceived issues instead of listening to what young people have to say. BBBS knows better which is why NYMAC continues to be invited to participate in and present at National and Regional Conventions and members of NYMAC sit on various national BBBS working groups and committees. Several local BBBS staff and board members from across the country reached out to NYMAC during and after Convention to ask more questions and get more insights about how they could further engage youth in their local communities. When NYMAC members first attended Convention a few years ago, there was only had one youth panel. This year, the agenda was filled with NYMAC members speaking on various panels and breakout discussions. We were there because we have a level of expertise on the topics being discussed and the work of BBBS directly impacts us and our peers. We also have a responsibility as NYMAC to be youth leaders and ensure that our knowledge and experience, regardless of our age, is considered a valuable asset to the organization. There is still a lot of work to do in terms of youth engagement and leadership being a core value of all our local BBBS organizations but with support from sponsors like Boston Pizza Foundation and WestJet Care for Kids who supported our Pride attendance, our in-person NYMAC meeting and our participation at Convention, and through building new local, regional and national community partnerships, NYMAC plans to take this message across the country.


Finally, all this is connected to Change:

The last several years, BBBS has focused on ensuring they are more equitable, diverse and inclusive than before, and that truly showed this year. Diversity is a core value for this organization and for us as NYMAC. For NYMAC member Markicia, being part of BBBS makes her proud because for a long time she has been the only one or two people of colour in a youth club or event in external spaces. While BBBS still has an overrepresentation of white and female identified staff and mentors, Markicia sees a change happening across the country where people of colour like her have a seat at the table and are making decisions about the future of the organization. For Markicia, it is very important to have representation to show children that they can be whatever they want to be regardless of their skin colour, background, or gender expression. When Markicia spoke at the National Convention, she shared that she was delighted to be a BBBS mentor so that “other little black girls can look up to me and see someone who looks like them and is a youth leader in the community.” The signaling of this change will be seen even more as BBBS launches a new brand, a new theory of change and a new mission/vision in September 2019. It is an exciting time for all of us and we are looking forward to having your join us! This is our call to action to anyone and everyone who wants to give back to their community to utilize mentoring as a means to make a difference.

Written by NYMAC members Markicia Fletcher and Karine Pomila Gauthier

Markicia Fletcher

Karine Pomilia Gauthier

 Karine Pomila Gauthier