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Connecting through COVID: Youth-work in a Pandemic

YAA Virtual Staff Conference
February 25, 2021

via Zoom

*Registration is $30 per person and your YAA Member organization will be invoiced for your registration

The YAA Staff Conference is an alternative professional development opportunity that brings front-line staff and those in leadership positions together from YAA Member organizations. The YAA Staff Conference incorporates a supportive networking component allowing staff to connect with individuals and organizations working in the youth-serving sector. Read below for a list of the concurrent Session A and Session B workshops that you can register for this year.

If you have any questions, please connect with Amanda Doerksen to learn more about the YAA Virtual Staff Conference. 

Conference Schedule

11 AM - 12 PM                        Opening, Keynote, & Prayer

1210 PM - 110 PM                 Session A

110 PM - 140 PM                    Interactive Lunch

145 PM - 245 PM                   Session B

245 PM - 3 PM                       Closing & Prayer

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Keynote Uzoma Asagwara

Uzoma Asagwara is a Registered Psychiatric Nurse, Addictions Specialist and former member of the Canadian National basketball team and in 2019 made history as the first Black, Queer, Gender Non-Conforming person elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly and across Canada.


Most recently Uzoma became the first Black person to make a law in Manitoba when their Bill “The Somali Heritage Week Act” was passed in December of 2020 with the unanimous support in the Manitoba Legislature.


Uzoma has been a long-time advocate alongside newcomer and refugee communities, two spirit and LGBTQ+ folks, youth and grassroots organizations.

Session A (1210 PM - 110 PM)

Session B (145 PM - 245 PM)

A.1 If You Build It, Will They Come? Leveraging Discord for Youth Facilitation
Next Gen Men (Johnathon Reed, Savannah Roach, & Mekhi Charles)

This workshop will explore how Next Gen Men's youth program transformed to meet the new reality of the pandemic. The key learnings of trailblazing a virtual space, alongside the mindset of youth leadership will be shared with practical tips for online facilitation. The implications of Discord as a space to foster youth's sense of belonging and ability to shift the status quo will be explored. The session will conclude with a Q & A period.

A.2 Virtual Life Skills Transference in Sport Programming 

MLSE LaunchPad (Jackie Robinson & Alexandra Scardamaglia)

This presentation will explore the key components to consider when developing or shifting a program to a virtual setting and how to redefine success for this new program delivery model. You will learn how to provide a virtual space that supports youth engagement by rebuilding relationships and trust through unique activities. Programs that focus on this foundation of engagement, developmental, and skill transference outcomes are essential to ensure the program keeps the experience of youth front and center. This presentation will use the example of the MLSE LaunchPad Sport & STEM program to demonstrate how to actively build resilience into program plans so they are responsive to the changing needs of youth. It will focus on how the in-person program culture has transitioned to an online platform that supports life skills transference to ensure the program core is consistent. The workshop will conclude with a discussion of how investing in virtual programs will make future programs (both in-person and online) better. 

A.3 Purposeful Consultation: The Importance of Youth Engagement

Non-Profit Youth Leadership Network (Emily Lints, Reese Estwich, & Winnie Shi)

For too long, youth engagement has only been a one-sided conversation. The Non-Profit Youth Leadership Network advocates for effective dialogues and consultations between organizations and youth . This session will focus on practical methods of youth engagement from programming for youth, to youth representatives on the Board level. Details of how to organize youth consultation will be discussed to give an overview of methods to open up this two-way dialogue. All of these discussions will be framed in both pandemic and post-pandemic viewpoints. 

A.4 Navigating All Our Relations in the Present Day

YouthREX (Joey-Lynn Wabie & Michelle Kennedy)

At the social level, digital media are effective tools for social interaction, operating as a space for conversation and connecting people, but also acting as a window into the lives of others. It is this aspect that allows these tools to enhance youth interest in public issues. The harnessing of social and digital media tools allows Indigenous youths’ voices to reach youth, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada and internationally, including politicians, policy makers, and educators. The flexibility of multi-platformed, conversational learning is that it has the potential to impact both social media users and non-users in a manner that promotes learning and sharing perspectives across the world. This workshop will highlight the intricate realities of maneuvering though online and in real life connections that push past boundaries and shift in delivery to ensure youth voices are heard.

B.1 Redefining Youth Engagement: Increasing Youth Governance and Inclusion

Emerging Youth Consultancy (Mobeen Lalani)

This workshop will focus on sharing the importance and incorporation of youth governance structures as a youth engagement strategy. It will provide an introduction to the importance of youth governance structures, the role of youth governance structures as a youth engagement strategy, and working for vs. working with youth. It will also overview adult-allyship and how to incorporate youth governance structures contextual to organization objectives and breakout sessions on integration of youth. The workshop will end with best practices for organizing youth forums, roundtables, and focus groups for youth representation and inclusion. 

B.2 The Learning is in the Doing: Beyond Virtual Programming in a Pandemic

Community Engaged Learning (University of Manitoba) (Nicki Ferland)

Note: Recommended supplies for the workshop: 5 cups of flour, 3 tbsp Magic Baking Powder, 1 cup of oil, and lukewarm water, and a large bowl, a spoon, a baking sheet, and access to an oven.

This workshop will focus on the development and delivery of a land-based education program for youth during the pandemic, including major challenges, lessons learned, and successes. This will overview an initiative involving social media engagement, and regular virtual gatherings, alongside land-based resources to support and foster land engagement . This workshop will guide participants through a hands on exercise of bannock making. Bannock is easy and delicious, inspires conversations about Indigenous cultures contemporarily and historically, and settler influences. Preparing and sharing food connects a group together, which is particularly important for land-based education, where relating to the land and to each other is a main goal. 

B.3 Building Systemic Change by Shifting Towards Equity-Centred Community Design 

Youth Climate Lab (Naia Lee, Soomin Han, & Shalaka Jadhav)

Youth Climate Lab is a youth-for-youth lab dedicated to creating innovative projects for climate action. In recognizing that decision-making is informed by lived experiences, the workshop focuses on a shift from design thinking towards Equity-Centred Community Design (ECCD). This workshop will address how we might design spaces that embed the complexity of power into participant journey mapping, facilitation, program design, curriculum support, and other methodologies? Space will be made for collaboration across multiple disciplines, and deep reflection on how to incorporate lessons from ECCD to centre equity and build systemic change.

B.4 Supporting 2SLGBTQ+ Youth Through a Pandemic

Rainbow Resource Centre (Dene Guillas & Craig Gibb)

This workshop will explore the impact of COVID-19 on 2SLGBTQ+ youth programming and mental health supports. It will outline barriers to youth and suggestions to increase accessibility of programs. The goal is to share strategies that help providers engage, create, and maintain healthy and supportive relationships that increase resilience and decrease isolation for youth.

B.5 Building Digital Communities in Light of Social Movements

Apathy is Boring (Francesca Désulmé)

It has been recognized that maintaining a sense of belonging and community is critical for well-being. Through the pandemic, individuals are confined to their homes with little to no access to community but social media and digital communications play a crucial role in redefining human connection. Many youth rely on peer support and social connections to feed their sense of belonging. During times of isolation and awareness of social justice issues, connecting youth to their peers via virtual content and equipping them with tools and resources is crucial. This workshop will include a conversation on how to build digital communities and mobilize online.

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