“The students entering this program are some of the most self-aware students I have ever met. They really want the opportunity to be a part of their community. We have to give them hope and let them know they are important and that they are valued and they are cared about.”
Kari MacDougall facilitated the Reboot Plus program from inception and has nourished it to see the fruition of her efforts. The Reboot Plus program helps marginalized young people re-engage in both education and career development and explore fields of interest. At the same time, it allows potential employers to see the potential in this demographic and support their entry into the workforce.
“When we started to learn more about who our students were and some of the barriers and challenges they faced, we were able to create a more individualized and student focused way of presenting the curriculum. We honed in on the importance of validating the students and letting them know that we genuinely cared about who they were and where they were going. We provided them autonomy to make own decisions and create their own goals.
“For this program to succeed, trust needs to be established. These students don’t often get people to do that for them. We spend a lot of time building a safe classroom community where they feel comfortable to share and know they won’t be ridiculed. As we moved through more cycles of this program, we responded to feedback that students wanted to hear more of our own stories: our journeys, our successes, and our failures. We opened ourselves up to share more of ourselves and our students responded in kind. We have these students for 16 weeks and by the end of the program, we have managed to gain each one one’s trust. They knew we were there for them and that we heard and valued them for sharing their own experiences.
“I learned from students in each cycle of this program. Each student is unique, but many share similar experiences. These students come with a lot of trauma. They come with mental health concerns. Many of them have grown up quickly due to this and have matured a lot quicker than other students their age. With this, they come with a greater self-awareness and acceptance. They are very aware of their mental health and wellness and they have a strong desire to advocate for themselves and ask for help and be okay with that. They want more understanding and compassion than what is currently being offered to them.
“Professionals participating in this program were surprised by the maturity of these students. I think there’s a pre-conceived stigma that students who are not on track to graduate are immature and lack focus, when in fact, the opposite is true; they are intelligent, self-aware, and life-aware. Professionals found themselves shocked by the deep questions that students were asking them. A continual response after the informational interviews was “Wow! These students really made me think about my past and how I got to where I am. I had to do a lot of reflecting and can see how far I’ve come.” Many professionals signed up for one informational interview, but found their experience so rewarding, they offered to participate multiple times.
“The Burnaby Board of Trade and Surrey Board of Trade were so helpful in connecting us to professionals in so many fields. If we struggled to match a student with a professional in their desired career, we would reach out and they would find someone in that field to have a conversation with our students. The collaboration with these organizations has been instrumental in the success of this program.
“We found schools to be very supportive of our efforts. Teachers and counsellors loved the program and the approach that we used to help students bridge into adulthood. Some attended sessions to gain a better understanding of what we were doing with their students and shared their own journeys to their current path. They witnessed changes in their students that exceeded their expectations. In the short duration of this program, their students gained self-love, self-value, and were on the path to becoming contributing members to society.
“We’re so excited that our efforts to work with youth has been so successful. Our efforts have paved the way for this program to expand across Canada, with additional funding from the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre. Our hope is that our successes can help pave the way for other youth to connect to people who value them enough to help them realize their potential. What I do know is that this role of facilitating the Reboot Plus program requires compassion, flexibility, openness, a big heart, patience, and positivity – always positivity.
“I am so very proud to have been an integral part to the growth of this program and I am very sorry to be leaving for other opportunities. I will continue keeping tabs and watching this program as it expands. To all of my colleagues and connections who have made this program such a success, thank you. Keep up the good work.”