When we give children and youth the tools to lead with confidence, anything is possible. This is the philosophy of Empowering Minds, a Calgary-based youth leadership organization that empowers teens to become significant contributors to their communities. Philosophy became reality when what began as an awareness project led by two grade ten students rapidly took off, resulting in an impressive donation of sports equipment to an aboriginal community in Alberta.
The story begins in late 2014, when Empowering Minds launched a pilot program called ConneX (sponsored by Tervita) in William Aberhart High School in Calgary. This program challenged youth to transform passion into positive change in their communities. For students Kailyn Cook and Jordan Flanagan, this passion came in the form of sports. Athletes all their lives, Kailyn and Jordan felt a strong desire to raise awareness of those lacking access to sports, particularly in aboriginal communities, and hoped to do something about it. The innovative duo named their project Equipped for Life and set out to learn more about barriers to sports in some communities. After connecting with Right to Play, an organization that uses sports and play to enhance child development in high-needs communities, the students created a powerful online video to raise awareness of the issue. But it didn’t end there. Incredibly, an anonymous donor learned about the Equipped for Life project and stepped up to donate over $8,000 worth of brand new sports equipment to the cause, transforming Kailyn and Jordan’s idea for change into action.
After learning about this generous act, Manager of Educational Programs Cleopatra Kierstead with Empowering Minds made a call to Alberta’s Promise in hopes of finding a deserving home for the donated equipment. Alberta’s Promise had recently been doing work in the High Level region with Sport Central, an organization that distributes gently used sports equipment to disadvantaged youth. While visiting the region in January 2015, Alberta’s Promise connected with Carlito Somera, Vice Principal of Dene Tha’ Community School located in Chateh, an aboriginal community located 91 kilometres northwest of High Level. Carlito, a big believer in the value of athletics for youth, had been working hard to get kids involved with sports in his community, but had been hitting roadblocks due to a lack of available equipment.
Using this knowledge and sensing a good fit, Alberta’s Promise introduced Carlito to Cleopatra, and a dynamic partnership was born. Not only will the sports equipment gathered by Kailyn and Jordan be transported to Carlito’s school, but Empowering Minds will also be launching a sneaker drive benefitting the Chateh community since many of the children have been playing sports in socked feet due to lack of funds. Sport Central will be lending a hand in Chateh as well by supplementing the $8,000 equipment donation with anything else the community may need to support its sports programs for youth.
It is tremendously inspiring to think that all of this incredible work began with two high school students and an idea to make positive change for youth. Thank you to Kailyn, Jordan, Sport Central, Cleopatra and the great staff at Empowering Minds, and Carlito with Dene Tha’ Community School for bringing opportunity to the youth of Chateh through the gift of sport.
Source Alberta’s Promise