YLI is a free online program for young people ages 14-18 that allows them to create an artistic project about a social issue they care about. Youth have the opportunity to work with like-minded peers and receive guidance from professional artists and community leaders in 10 after-school sessions.
The projects that these young people bring to life vary — short films, comics, websites, and zines are just a few of the artistic mediums that past participants have chosen. Even the creative process of YLI looks a little different for each group as it’s informed by the participants and their interests. Over the next few weeks, we’ll hear more about the experience of YLI first-hand from members of three recent groups. First up: Project CLICK.
Project CLICK is powered by a group of young people from all over Ontario, including 16-year-old Sophia from Stoney Creek and 14-year-old Saheel from Toronto. These teens realized that they all saw similar opportunities for improvement within their own schooling experiences and decided to use their creative project to promote changes to the education system.
“We saw a common theme going back to our education system and we decided that a lot of kids see this problem with it, but no one really talks about it,” said Sophia.
The group decided that the main focuses for their project would be encouraging schools to teach critical thinking and prepare students for the real world as well as introducing more equity in the school system. The name of their group refers to their hope of making the education system “CLICK” for more young people, but it’s also an acronym that describes how they intend to do this: by Creating Long-Term Preparedness, Innovation, Critical Thinking, and Knowledge.
Once they had determined the issue they wanted to focus on, Project CLICK needed to decide which artistic mediums would best serve them. Because they wanted to reach as many young people as possible, they chose to create a website, an Instagram account, and a YouTube channel. Their website features videos and original comics that were created by the group.
YLI facilitator monte neufeld says that the process of creating these comics was an impressive feat. The teens had to come up with ideas for the comic strips, which were usually fairly complex, and then distill those concepts into concise narratives with only a few panels. These narratives were then converted into digital images by Project CLICK team member Elaine and displayed on the group’s website.
Both Saheel and Sophia brought their own unique skills and experience to YLI to support their group’s creative efforts. Saheel’s primary role was building the back end of Project CLICK’s website and creating their YouTube channel. He is no stranger to web development — Saheel started learning how to code when he was just eight years old!
While technology has always been an interest for Saheel, he really became hooked on coding when he discovered Android Development a few years ago. He now considers himself a moderately experienced Android developer, and consistently works to improve his coding skills. His tech expertise was certainly an asset to his YLI team, and Project CLICK allowed him to continue to expand his abilities and learn new artistic skills.
Sophia, on the other hand, has an entrepreneurial background, having already operated her own business. She was able to build upon her familiarity with social media promotion as she created Project CLICK’s Instagram account and established a base of followers.
So, what was the most exciting part of YLI? As a first-time YLI participant, Saheel said that the program held some pleasant surprises for him.
“I was expecting to pick up some art skills but I never really expected that this would be like a real-life actual leadership thing. […] The process of building something and putting it out into the world — that was actually pretty powerful.”
For Sophia, the opportunity to connect with other like-minded teens made her realize the strength in her own opinions. YLI validated her thoughts, encouraging her to give voice to them.
“I always had these opinions and thoughts but […] it was surprising to see how many people shared [them]. I guess I learned the importance of speaking your mind.”
Both teens were energized by the opportunity to inspire real change. For Saheel, it was the first time that he felt he could truly make a difference.
“Before YLI, I was never really involved in the world. I never really thought about impact or change. And then when I joined YLI, I [realized] a bunch of kids can actually get together and actually do something.”
While Sophia had an interest in inspiring change before attending YLI, she was unsure of how to get started on her own. YLI provided her with the tools, structure, and collaborators that she needed.
“It gives you a platform, kind of a boost, I guess I would call it. It’s hard to get together a team of people, but YLI gives you that start. You can go from there and continue doing what you’re passionate about.”
And Project CLICK is going to do just that. The group is now continuing the work they started during YLI outside of the program, and are even looking to add some new collaborators to the group. Be sure to check out Project CLICK on YouTube, Instagram, and online to see what they’ve created so far.
In the meantime, another session of YLI is about to start. In addition to being an opportunity for young people to learn about art and inspire change, participants also receive a learner kit, free meals, and participation counts towards volunteer hours. When asked to sum up the essence of YLI, here’s how Saheel described the experience:
“YLI is a place where you can change your own life and change other peoples’ lives and learn some new skills along the way. It gives you a purpose.”
Register online now for the next session of YLI!
YLI is proudly supported by RBC Foundation’s Future Launch Initiative.