Tell us About Your Experience: Chatting with the Participants from the Youth Leadership Labs Program


 |  The Starfish

The Starfish Canada and Aryze Developments launched the first-ever Youth Leadership Labs Program to give youth a voice in placemaking and urban planning in the City of Victoria. As a result, 33 youth aged 14 to 29 pitched six different projects to a panel of industry experts on March 9th, 2022. If you want to learn more about these projects and how their ideas will be incorporated into a placemaking initiative in Victoria, BC, check out the first part of this article series on the Youth Leadership Labs Program here. For the second part of this article series, I sat down with some of the fantastic people involved in this pilot program to learn more about what their experience in the program was like.

Throughout the eight virtual workshops, participants learned about placemaking and project development and got to share their ideas through group collaboration. Overall the feedback from the program was positive. When I asked what drew two different participants to the program, here is what they had to say:

Rupert Yakelashek, age 18, shared that he chose to participate in the program for “the chance to positively shape [his] community and collaborate with other like-minded youth.” Brynne Langford, age 28, shared that she chose to participate because she saw the program as “a great venue for collaborating with other young people to generate ideas to feed into a local placemaking initiative.”

Image of a slide depicting all of the work that went into Pitch Night.

What’s even more exciting is that over 65% of program participants said they gained tools for understanding how placemaking and urban planning operate in the City of Victoria. Yakelashek shared that through this program, he learned “how to work on a group project and create collaboratively,” which are fundamental skills that he will take into future projects and work. He also shared that his favourite part of the program was having the opportunity to pitch his group’s ideas to the industry experts and is excited to hopefully see some of his group’s ideas incorporated into the final project for the placemaking initiative in Victoria, BC.

When I asked another participant from the program, Roger Doss, age 15, why he thought it was important for youth like him to be involved in placemaking initiatives such as this one, he shared that he “believes youth are the future and giving [us] a say in these important matters will help shape a better tomorrow.”

I can say firsthand that it was incredibly inspiring to work with these youth and even more gratifying to hear that their experiences from the program were positive and full of learning and growth.

Of course, this program would not have been possible without the support and collaboration of Aryze Developments, who are currently leading the Quadra Village Community Space Project. They believe that “young people are the leaders of tomorrow, and programs like Youth Leadership Labs provide them with an opportunity to learn how they can impactfully contribute to the future of Victoria, BC.” In reflecting with Aryze on the program, they explained to me that this was their primary motivation for launching the Youth Leadership Labs Program in collaboration with The Starfish Canada.

This program would also not have been possible without the support from the outstanding industry experts and leaders that Aryze helped bring to the program. People like Franc D’Ambrosio of DAU, Councillor Sarah Potts, Will Sorrell, Anna Kapusta from The City of Victoria, and Luke Mari from Aryze. When I asked Aryze what’s next concerning the Quadra Village Community Space Project, they reiterated that they are “looking forward to incorporating [the youth’s] ideas into the future community park in Quadra Village and demonstrating how young adults can provide valuable insight for placemaking in Victoria, BC.”

In addition to the indispensable team at Aryze, the incredible industry experts, and the outstanding participants, we had a fantastic group of facilitators to help lead group collaboration and connection throughout the program. These facilitators dedicated their time to ensuring the youth were engaged and having a great time. I was so impressed with the energy they brought to every workshop. When I asked Mei-Ling Patterson, one facilitator from the program, what her favourite part was, she said,  “getting to support and learn from the youth throughout the program and hearing their ideas.” Overall, facilitators loved being a part of Youth Leadership Labs and also got a chance to learn about placemaking. Patterson described the whole experience as “awesome to get to work with such a motivated, intelligent, and innovative group of youth.”

The Youth Leadership Labs  Program was created with the intention of educating, connecting, and allowing youth to share their ideas on a placemaking initiative in Victoria, BC. Based on the feedback received and the reflections from participants in this article, I would say that we were successful. Placemaking and sustainable urban planning are two areas of work that I am incredibly passionate about, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help manage this pilot program for The Starfish Canada. I am hopeful that projects like this will continue to happen into the future, in order to continue educating and providing youth with a platform to share ideas and collaborate on projects in their community.

This program would not have been possible without support from the Victoria Foundation and the Real Estate Foundation of BC.

Image of words shared by participants about their experience in Youth Leadership Labs.