A group of teens take part in a YMCA Youth Engagement program.

Childhood obesity, youth unemployment, low-income prevalence, a weak sense of social belonging...there’s lots of challenges facing our young people, especially those from underserved communities. All of this can make it hard to envision better days ahead.

But despite the challenges, we know youth have a lot of potential to make a better future for themselves, their communities and for Canada.

How we are making a difference

By providing empowering programs and services, safe places to be with their peers and the chance to express themselves, we are working together with youth to move the obstacles in their way to greater things. With mentorship, encouragement and mutual problem solving, we can support youth as they develop into the role models and leaders our communities need.

Here are some of the ways YMCAs across Canada are giving youth the opportunity to discover how awesome they really are:

Youth Activities

The real world version of social networking! Nothing has quite the impact on teens today than the relationships they have with their friends. We encourage positive connections by providing places where youth can get together, do the things they like and take part in healthy, productive activities.

Youth Leadership Development

With a little nudge in the right direction towards the right opportunities, we can help youth find and use their voice to share their ideas and thoughts on how to build a healthier community. Many local Ys offer YMCA Youth Leadership Programs, youth leadership camps, volunteer opportunities and more to help youth step up in their communities.

YMCA Summer Works Student Exchange

This six-week program lets youth who are 16 and 17 years old improve their second official language skills, and gain important employment experience through a work placement while on their exchange.

Learn more about Summer Works Student Exchange

Youth Exchanges Canada

Youth Exchanges Canada gives groups of 10 to 30 participants between the ages of 12 and 17 the opportunity to initiate community service projects, live in another community, learn Canada's other official language, or explore Canada's cultural diversity. Participants are twinned with same-age groups from another province or territory, and they take turns staying in each other's communities for at least five days.

Learn more about Youth Exchanges Canada

4Rs Youth Movement

Founded by youth for youth, the 4Rs Youth Movement helps Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth recognize the vital role they play in reconciliation and building a Canada where all cultures are recognized and respected. 4Rs helps facilitate conversations through workshops and gathering so that all youth can appreciate the depth of the Indigenous experience and its importance to the future of our country.

YMCA Canada is one of the 14 founding partners of 4Rs, along with other national Aboriginal and youth-serving organizations, and Foundations.

Learn more about the 4Rs Youth Movement

Get Involved

To learn more about youth engagement programs near you, visit your local YMCA’s website for more information.