The City of Edmonton believes all teenagers could be HEROs to their community and themselves. That’s the idea behind the City’s new Community HEROs program, which stands for Health, Empowerment, Responsibility and Opportunity. Vanesa Makela, a child and youth program coordinator and one of the program’s creators, says HEROs was developed to provide an exciting and worthwhile opportunity for 13 to 17 year olds.
“We wanted to create something of value for that age group. HEROs courses are chosen to benefit participants, not just now, but throughout life.”
In this unique leadership program, youth have two years to take three required courses from the City of Edmonton, select three from a diverse set of elective courses, and complete 120 hours of volunteer work. HEROs participants will have access to a variety of the City’s popular skill-building activities.
“We included as many City departments as possible to provide a well-rounded experience. We didn’t want all of the courses to be directly about leadership. HEROs participants will develop leadership as they explore nature and participate in sport and the arts.”
The mandatory courses focus on problem-solving, working in groups, building confidence and tackling real-world challenges.
Program Manager Carole Preston says all the courses chosen for HEROs are interactive, giving youth a chance to learn by doing.
“At the end of these courses, they know they had fun, but they may not realize how much they’ve learned until they debrief and see how what they’ve done applies to other parts of their lives.”
In order to develop something youth would find valuable, the HEROs team took the direct approach: they brought in 13 to 17 year olds and asked what they wanted from a leadership program.
“They’re busy people with a lot of options for how to spend their time,” Carole says. “It matters to them that they get something out of the courses they take. They told us they wanted courses of different lengths, held at different times and places, so that they could fit courses into their lives. They also said they wanted options as diverse as cooking, self-defense, geo-caching and zumba. We have all of those courses and we’ll be adding more as HEROs grows.”
Volunteering with the City of Edmonton’s Attractions and Recreation Facilities is integral to HEROs.
“It’s another way to develop skills through using those skills,” Carole says. “And there are real benefits in terms of school credits and building resumes for work and university.”
Youth, parents and teachers who want to learn more about HEROs can find information at www.edmonton.ca/HEROs. To learn more about volunteering with the City of Edmonton, visit www.edmonton.ca/volunteers. The HEROs program will begin this September and registration is open now.