Episode 159 – YOUCAN Youth Services

On this episode, our correspondent, Danielle Paradis introduces us to Kyle Dubé, the executive director at YOUCAN Youth Services. Kyle tells us how being relentless can make a difference.

YOUCAN helps young people out of harm’s way, and onto a path of economic independence. They do this through a series of programs that empower healthy decision-making.  They also help youth to return to school and enter the work force with training and skill development.

Learn more abut YOUCAN Youth Services.
Check out their Relentless podcast series.

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The Well Endowed Podcast is produced by Edmonton Community Foundation. 

Photo by Danielle Paradis.



[The Well Endowed Podcast theme music plays] 

Anna Alfonso [00:00:25] Hi everyone. Welcome to ECF’s Well Endowed Podcast. I’m Anna Alfonso.

Andrew Paul

style="font-weight: 400;"> [00:00:31] And I’m Andrew Paul. Edmonton is full of generous donors who have created endowment funds at Edmonton Community Foundation.

Anna [00:00:38] These funds are carefully stewarded to generate money that supports charities in Edmonton and beyond.

Andrew [00:00:44] On this podcast, we share stories about how these funds help strengthen our community… because it’s good to be well endowed.

Anna [00:00:51] On this episode, we meet Kyle Dubé, the Executive Director at YOUCAN Youth Services. 

Andrew [00:00:58] YOUCAN helps young people out of harm’s way and onto a path of economic independence. They do this through a series of programs that empower healthy decision-making.

Anna [00:01:08] They also help youth to return to school and enter the workforce with training and skill development.

Andrew [00:01:14] Relentless is the word that shapes YOUCAN Youth Services, is how they build relationships with youth, is even the name of their own podcast.

Anna [00:01:22] Our correspondent, Danielle Paradis, met Kyle at the YOUCAN location to learn about how being relentless can make a difference in a young person’s life.

[The Well Endowed Podcast jingle plays in background]

Andrew [00:01:32] Just a quick note, there were some challenges in recording on-site, so there will be some variation in sound quality. Okay, let’s get into it.

[bell chimes]

Danielle Paradis [00:01:40] That is the sound of the celebration bell. The participants at YOUCAN Youth Services ring it when they have found a job. 

Here’s Kyle Dubé, the Executive Director for YOUCAN. 

Kyle Dubé [00:02:03] So that’s our, uh, celebration bell, and we ring that bell every time a young person gets a job or something significant happens in their lives. Uh, they ring the bell, actually. And then all of our staff and our youth know when they come out from their— the offices or the training room and we celebrate the young person. We kind of cheer for ’em, clap for ’em, and pump their tires. And the young person really loves ringing this bell. This is this kind of exciting thing for them. So it’s kind of a goal for them to be able to ring this bell. 

Danielle [00:02:30] What kind of… uh, what kind of looks do they have on their face when [laughs] it’s happening?

Kyle [00:02:33] Well, it’s louder than they thought. So they’re usually surprised by that. And then they’re— they’re just excited. They’re happy. They’re… they’re happy to share this little… this little win in their lives, which is actually a big win. And for us, we really want them to feel acknowledged in that and celebrated at that.

Danielle [00:02:51] Once, a kid rang the bell [laughs] so hard, he ripped it off the wall.

Kyle [00:02:57] [laughs] Kid hit it so hard, we had to, uh… we had to replace it. Yeah. Like, honestly, it was hilarious. The kid just started going, so excited. [onomatopoeia] Ripped the— I’m like, “What the heck, man?” Like, ripped the whole thing off. Yeah. So then we had to order another one. 

[00:03:13] Yeah. So YOUCAN Youth Services is a youth-serving agency here in the community of Edmonton. We work with, uh, at-risk or vulnerable young people between the ages of 15 and 25 years old. And our mission is to move young people out of harm’s way and onto a path of economic independence. Essentially, what we’re trying to do is take young people who have a lot of barriers, who are struggling, wh-who come from some… some tough backgrounds. We’re trying to help stabilize them so that they can either go back to school or get a job. And the end goal of it all is that hopefully we work with them long enough, we build strong enough relationships with them that they trust us and then they can move on from us and move forward in life and hopefully not need us.

Danielle [00:03:56] YOUCAN Youth Services is located right beside Westmount School. As an organization, they assist some of the most at-risk and vulnerable people. 

Kyle credits a lot of their successes to something that he calls “being relentless.”

Kyle [00:04:15] So relentless to us is… is everything. Um. Realistically, the best definition I can give about, uh— for the word relentless is “we need to be a pain in the ass.” That’s the best way I can describe it. I don’t know about you or your upbringing. I know that my… my parents, I would say, were relentless. Myself as a parent, I’m relentless with my kids where it’s very important that we show up all the time. That we… we are unconditional, yet sometimes we have to be conditional in those things. The young people we work with, truth be told, they don’t come from a lot of those places. People aren’t showing up all the time for them, and we need to be that person for them. When I say pain in the ass, what it means is… is when we— we’re dealing with a young person and they don’t show up for a program or they don’t show up for a meeting or they don’t show up for different things we’re doing with them, uh, we will hunt them down.

[00:05:09] We will follow up relentlessly. We are… we are banging on doors. If a young person doesn’t show up to the job that we’ve helped them secure, their boss can call us. And our relentless youth worker is literally banging on their door and getting them out of bed by being a pain in the ass. But it really means showing up and not giving up. We have to show these young people that in… in our lives, to be successful and to move forward, you have to be relentless for yourself. And so we’re gonna model that as a support for them so that hopefully they bring that themselves. I’m a big believer that we… we see in a young person what they don’t see in themselves until they do.

Danielle [00:05:54] In my conversations with Kyle, I was struck by this push-pull dynamic that comes up when you’re dealing with youth. There’s often a need for structure and sometimes for strictness. And you have to balance that with the need for care and overall, the need to just show up and be there for somebody. Because as Kyle says, for a lot of these young people, there isn’t somebody like that in their life. And so the relentless youth workers, they need to be that person. 

[00:06:30] One of the other things that we talked about was that when you’re young and inexperienced in the workforce or if you are somebody who didn’t grow up with a lot of resiliency skills, you might end up in a fight or flight situation. So if you’re late for work or if you missed your bus, rather than being resilient, showing up late, taking ownership, you might be really tempted to freeze or to fly just to leave that situation. And so another thing that YOUCAN Youth Services does is work with youth to make sure that they can overcome those barriers, that they learn how to be resilient. 

Here’s Kyle talking a little bit more about those programs.

Kyle [00:07:14] I— I’m-I’m worried about young people today. I’ve always been believer that— been a believer that youth are youth are youth are youth. And youth work 30 years ago when I started compared to youth work today, has it changed? Yes. Mostly ’cause of technology. But at the core of it, it’s about relationships. I worry, though, because I do find that the resiliency in young people, although the the resiliency in young people that we work with is fairly high, it still is not as high as it used to be. And I also believe that a lot of that has to do with… with things that make kids resilient when they’re growing up. Like discipline. 

[00:07:54] Like— You know that the— one of the number one things to help build resiliency in a young— in a… in a child and moving into their teenage and adult years is chores. Which makes sense. Nobody wants to do chores. I push back on it all the time. You push back on it. But we still did it. [Danielle: Yep. I still don’t wanna do chores.] Yeah, yeah, exactly. [Danielle: But yeah.] Bu-but we still do it and it actually helps build resiliency in ourselves. And so I’m a big believer in that for our young people. It’s not about, you know, having boot camps and being like— that’s not what it’s about. It’s about giving young people expectations and then actually having them follow through with it.

Danielle [00:08:34] That sounds like it requ— in order to be able to do that kind of work, you must have to have a trusting relationship. [Kyle: Mm-hmm.] How do you build that? 

Kyle [00:08:43] Yeah, I-I— It is the most important thing and I believe the best way to have a trusting relationship with a young person is if you say you’re gonna do something, do it. I really believe showing up is the best way. I believe— You know, we could use, like, buzzwords like empathy and, you know, make sure that you’re listening well and all that type of stuff. But I really believe just making sure that you show up when you say you’re going to show up is so important. Um, accepting these young people where they’re at. We need to meet them where they’re at. If we want to help them and assist them moving forward in life and… and… and hopefully having different experiences which can bring them success. Which by the way, success to me does not mean you’re becoming a millionaire. Success to me means that you have contentment in your life and you can support yourself. 

[00:09:37] It really is about just being there for them when they fall. When you say you’re gonna be, you be there. And that to me is the best way to build relationships with these young people. Our relentless youth workers when we first meet a young person, um, you know, that— None of our programs are mandated. It’s all— They-they, you know— Even with the police, they’re referred to us. They are— they don’t have to work with us if they don’t want to. And… it’s a very high percentage of them want to work with us.

Danielle [00:10:08] Programs for the young people focus on skills and knowledge that is useful to get a job. This includes everything from workplace safety to basic tools, training. All of this helps set them up for the workforce. The day that I’m at the office, everyone is out shopping for interview clothes and work attire. 

YOUCAN runs a YouTube channel where they have short video documentaries as well as their podcast, also called Relentless. Here’s a clip where both workers and program participants are out looking for clothes. You can actually hear the program at work.

[clip begins] 

Clip voice #1 [00:10:44] If the whole program doesn’t fall through, I’ll just go do organized crime.

Clip voice #2 [00:10:47] Ah, there you go.

[music plays]

Clip voice #1 [00:10:48] We are doing professional clothing shopping. Uh, we’re finding clothing that we’ll wear for our interviews.

Clip voice #3 [00:10:59] A lot of them don’t necessarily have interview-ready clothes, so we bring them here to the mall, uh, and they get to get a pair of pants, shoes, and shirts and, if they have extra money, a belt. Uh, just so that when they go to interviews, they have some clothes that they’d be able to wear and feel confident and comfortable in as well.

Clip voice #2 [00:11:13] We’re getting some fashion shows. Youth are trying on some clothing that maybe they haven’t tried on before and getting some feedback and I think they’re having a lot of fun with it. 

Clip voice #4 [00:11:21] We are dress shopping for, like, work attire clothing for a job interview. I don’t have it yet. [inaudible] suit. Like, nothing too fancy where I’m like— I come in in a suit, tie. [inaudible] Uh, but just, like, something casual, like, maybe, like, some nice formal pants and nice top and, like, maybe a blazer.

Clip voice #5 [00:11:42] Well I think they’re perfect because you go anywhere with these, they’re maybe construction [laughs] [inaudible] in they’re steel-toe. 

Clip voice #6 [00:11:49] Something comfy, but, like, I kind of wanna do something stylish. Like, stylish… But I don’t know. We’ll see. 

Clip voice #2 [00:11:57] They’re in week six now. Some have had some interviews, a lot have applied. So they’re just starting that process and getting feedback now from employers.

Clip voice #1 [00:12:03] Ideal one would be something kind of office-related. Uh, ’cause I already have the getup for it, so I think I’d pick perfectly.

Clip voice #2 [00:12:11] Every group is different. This group is very dynamic, very uniquely themselves, and have come together nicely as a community. It’s been a pleasure.

[clip ends] 

Danielle [00:12:18] What I really love about that clip is the way that you hear the young people trying to figure out for themselves what it means to be in the workforce and what it means to show up with their own form of expression, which is so important when you’re young. And there’s so much humour, uh, when it comes to how the youth and the program workers are working together. It was just really beautiful. 

Now here’s Kyle explaining a little bit more about the programs that YOUCAN offers and how they help young people to find work.

Kyle [00:13:01] So what we offer here at YOUCAN Youth Services is what we call Ready, Willing, and Able. Obviously that’s a real kind of work-type phrase. Uh, our Ready portion of our program is that outreach piece with the police. We’re working with these young people to hopefully help them get ready so that they can start managing those barriers. Right now, most of them have this awareness of these barriers or these risk factors in their lives, but we’re really trying to get them ready to either go back to school or potentially get a job or potentially go into treatment or… or counseling or whatever that looks like. That’s a long-term process for a lot of them. It’s a lot of relationship-building, trust-building, that type of stuff.

[00:13:45] We then move into the Willing portion of our program, which is those two employment programs that I talked about, the virtual project where virtual is Latin for turnaround or change. And that is a… a— about a 20, 21 week program where the young people come in, they do a lot of workshops on a variety of different topics from budgeting your money, to anger management, to conflict resolution, to resume writing, and kind of everything in between. And after nine weeks, we hope that they now go into the Able portion of our program, which means you’re able to get a job or you’re able to go back to school and we help facilitate that. 

[00:14:24] Our Road to Work program is very construction-focused. Uh, as far as employment goes, they’re here for five weeks. Again, these are vulnerable young people. They’re a little bit farther ahead, uh, on that… that at-risk spectrum. And they come into the program, we do a little bit of that personal development stuff like in our other employer program. But we really focus in on safety trainings and then they actually do one week of hands-on… tool training, hand tool and power tool training where we actually build some stuff for one of our partners so that when they land on a jobsite when they’re in that Able portion, they actually already have some of these skills and they’re showing up with some of these skills that the employers will love that they have.

[00:15:09] So those are our programs, our employment programs, and those two programs, um, the young people actually get paid $15 an hour to be there. So we call it Earn While You Learn, and they actually are able to get paid an-and hopefully be able to sustain some things in their lives while they’re in our program and until we can find them employment.

[The Well Endowed Podcast jingle plays in background]

Danielle [00:15:29] So there you have it. Ready, Willing, and Able are the three branches that YOUCAN looks at when working on helping vulnerable youth either go back to school or to find employment.

Anna [00:15:40] Thank you to Danielle Paradis for bringing us this story, and to Kyle Dubé, the Executive Director at YOUCAN Youth Services for sharing his relentless approach to serving youth.

Andrew [00:15:55] If you’d like to learn more about YOUCAN’s programming, you can visit their website at youcan.ca. We’ll have that link in our show notes along with a link to the Relentless podcast.

Anna [00:16:04] We’ll also have links to ECF’s grants and student awards.

Andrew [00:16:08] And don’t forget to check out our blog for even more great stories about Edmonton’s community.

Anna [00:16:13] Well, that brings us to the end of the show. Thank you for spending your time with us.

Andrew [00:16:18] We really appreciate it. If you like what you heard, please share it with everyone you know.

Anna [00:16:22] And if you have time, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, and visit us on Facebook where you can share your thoughts and see some pictures from the show.

Andrew [00:16:31] Thanks again for tuning in. We’ve been your hosts, Andrew Paul—

Anna [00:16:35] And Anna Alfonso.

Andrew and Anna [00:16:36] Until next time! 

[The Well Endowed Podcast music plays in background of outro]

Andrew [00:16:40] The Well Endowed Podcast is produced by Edmonton Community Foundation—

Anna [00:16:45] And is edited by Andrew Paul.

Andrew [00:16:47] You can visit our website at TheWellEndowedPodcast.com.

Anna [00:16:51] Subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Andrew [00:16:56] Special thanks to Octavo Productions for our theme music.

Anna [00:16:59] And as always, don’t forget to visit Edmonton Community Foundation at ecfoundation.org.

[theme music continues playing for a few seconds after dialogue ends]

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