Shuswap Youth Launch Team members Claire Waite, Abbigail Paetsch, Mikayla Wilkinson, Brynn Gowen and Caillie Hay-Vicars pause for a picture on the day of the Shuswap Youth Launch interactive event, Thursday, Feb. 25. (Contributed)

Shuswap Youth Launch team over the moon with success of interactive event

Salmon Arm youth team invited to apply for $100,000 grant

A team of Shuswap youth are over the moon following the success of their virtual leadership event.

Approximately 850 people participated in Shuswap Youth Launch, an interactive event created by youth (ages 15 to 22), for youth, held online on Thursday, Feb. 25.

The event was organized by the Shuswap Youth Launch Team, whose members range in age from 15 to 22 and include Mikayla Wilkinson, Abbigail Paetsch, Caillie Hay-Vicars, Brynn Gowan, Claire Waite, Maggie Beckner and Dayton Massey.

For Mikayla, Shuswap Youth Launch wound up having a far greater reach than anticipated, with schools throughout B.C., in Alberta and even Washington state taking part. It featured inspirational talks from guest speakers including: Canadian poet, TED Talk and We Day veteran Wali Shah; former NHL’er Corey Hirsch; author, activist and empowerment coach Ashley Bendiksen; and successful Salmon Arm entrepreneur Missy MacKintosh, founder of MisMacK Clean Cosmetics.

The team will be sending surveys to participating schools for input on the event. But Mikayla and Abbigail are thrilled with the feedback they’ve received so far from speakers and participants. One response came from a mom who wanted to share how excited her son, a Grade 6 student, was to be online with Hirsch.

“He’s a hockey player so that was pretty cool for him,” said Mikayla. “His mom asked him, ‘what did you learn?’ He told his mom he learned it’s OK to ask for help, that you shouldn’t be scared to ask for help, and that mental health is OK. And I think that was really cool, that he’s in Grade 6 and he learned such a valuable lesson which a lot of adults still need to recognize…”

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“Just one kid recognizing that, or one kid getting something out of this, made the entire event worth it,” added Abbigail.

The event was funded with a $15,000 grant from RBC. It was also supported by the Shuswap Community Foundation, the Rotary Club of Salmon Arm and School District 83.

Prior to the event, the Shuswap Youth Launch team received some exciting news – they’d been invited to apply for a $100,000 grant through the RBC Future Launch Community Challenge program.

“We are hoping we can get that grant and that will help us,” said Mikayla. “But even if we don’t get the grant, we do want to keep going and we’ll look for support from our community and everything like that.”

Despite the work involved to put on the event – over and above school requirements for some, Mikayla and Abbigail said they and their teammates are committed to bringing Shuswap Youth Launch back in 2022. The two would like to see a hybrid event next year, with a theatre audience in addition to online participation.

“That night after Shuswap Youth Launch, when we were getting all the emails saying ‘relax, you can take a breather,’ we were studying for two tests and trying to finish two projects,” said Mikayla.

“And a lab,” said Abbigail, adding the team is dedicated and will make the time for it to work.

“We really want to stress that we’re going to keep it authentic, keep it real, keep youth MC’ing it. That’s really important,” said Mikayla.

More information about the event can be found on the Shuswap Youth Launch Facebook page.

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