Parents and youth approach the summer with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Everyone is ready for the break, but with freedom comes the problem of how to keep active and engaged, while still having fun. In Edmonton, there are great opportunities for youth to keep busy doing something meaningful.

The City of Edmonton is a great resource. One initiative is the Leaders in Training program (LIT). From May to August, youth ages 13-17 can volunteer with city playground programs (such as the Green Shack), registered programs (such as day camps at recreation centres), and the Flying Eagle program.

The Flying Eagle program is a unique city outreach focused on exploring and sharing Aboriginal culture with children ages 6-12. It complements the popular Green Shack playground program, moving from park to park to offer traditional games and crafts for a fun cross-cultural experience.

Andrea Tarasenko, the city’s program manager for neighbourhood recreation experiences, said some families enjoy the program so much that they follow it throughout the city. Volunteers would benefit from this instructive cross-cultural leadership experience.

Tarasenko spoke with relish about the benefits of volunteering with LIT. She said she especially values “the amount of leadership experience that youth gain for getting a job—any job—doing better in school, and meeting other youth they wouldn’t normally meet.” She continued, saying LIT “gives something for their resume because for many, this is their first volunteer or work experience.”

Leaders in Training provides training before sending youth on their assignments. | City of Edmonton / Paul Kuchma.

The LIT program helps youth develop confidence in the workplace, resume writing, skills development, social skills, and leadership.The program accepts volunteers with diverse experiences and personalities. It’s a program for the outgoing and shy alike. Tarasenko related how one parent wrote to the city to praise the program, saying that LIT “transformed her daughter,” who had been struggling. The parent described how the teen learned to do well in school academically, socially, and emotionally after engaging in the program.

The program requires pre-registration, followed by attendance at one of several registration nights throughout the city, scheduled in May and June. The website outlines the procedure for registration and provides a schedule. The program is growing in popularity as word spreads about its success.

As for other volunteer activities, you may be surprised where you find them, and you never know where they will take you. Contact your local community league for potential opportunities. Leagues may need assistance with lawn mowing, weeding, park clean ups, facility maintenance, program help, or special events. They may also be aware of residents in the community who need assistant with various tasks.

In particular, the Neighbour Connect Project in Alberta Avenue is an exciting development to explore. “We have a team conducting numerous pop-up events this summer,” says Karen Mykietka, the project manager. “We could always use help with flyer delivery, set up, and supervision of games.”

Another cornerstone of the community is The Carrot Coffeehouse. The Carrot accepts volunteers and coordinates volunteerism for festivals in the community. Youth can independently volunteer for festival events from ages 14 and up. At The Carrot, Junior Volunteers are ages 14-16, although youth 13 and under can participate if they are with a parent to form a barista pair. Volunteers 17 and over are regular Carrot volunteers who can handle cash and other specific responsibilities.

The Carrot volunteer manager, Mike Kunicki, encourages families to volunteer together. The Carrot barista pair is a great way to have one-on-one time, and volunteering as a family will create one of a kind experiences. He enthusiastically says, “We have tonnes of families that volunteer together [at festivals] who can be sitting by a fire next to a stage.” He says the greatest benefit is that as volunteers at a festival, “You’re not only viewing art. You’re shifting as a whole family from being consumers of art in the community to being participants in art in the community.”

Start a life that includes volunteerism at an early age. Not only will you open doors you didn’t realize existed, you can also truly be a part of making the world a better place.


Leaders in Training


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Neighbour Connect Program


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The Carrot Coffeehouse


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Featured Image: Through LIT, youth ages 13-17 learn new skills and meet new people. | City of Edmonton / Paul Kuchma.