Keisha Johnson
Keisha Johnson

National after school program aims to help youth thrive

By Admin Wednesday August 20 2014 in News
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Young Canadians seeking academic support, life skills, leadership and adventure among other things, can take advantage of a national after-school program that was launched last week.


Targeting youth between the ages of 12 and 21, the Pathfinders of Canada program is expected to commence at the end of September with two cohorts in the Greater Toronto Area.


Students will meet in squadrons once weekly from 6-9 p.m. and once on a weekend until they graduate next June.


The Military Academy of Canada (RCM), established nine years ago, will oversee the program in collaboration with The Clarity Group International.


Keisha Johnson, the program’s chief administration officer, said the new initiative is aimed at providing mentorship, interactive learning and local and international community service opportunities that will ensure the youths will be grounded and well-rounded.


“We took stock of what Canadian young people say matters most to their engagement in their education and success,” said Johnson. “We also looked at research that other agencies and institutions have done to identify the benchmarks and framework for success in life and work. Then we looked at where the gaps are before arriving at what we can do to help youths thrive in life and work.


“Young people are looking for more extra-curricular activities, opportunities to volunteer, more engaging lessons, cultural awareness, hands-on learning, connectivity with others, a greater involvement in decision-making, practical application lessons and opportunities to give back. They just want to be valued. Our response is a dynamic program that integrates the needs of the youths, the themes of the strategic framework to help Ontario’s youth succeed and the employability skills such as fundamental personal management and teamwork identified by the Conference Board of Canada.”


A volunteer and life coach, Johnson said the curriculum will be delivered in partnership with professionals who will be the tutors, coaches and mentors.


“The participants, in turn, will utilize the skills and competencies gained in the program to implement enterprise projects and participate in social development initiatives, not just in Canada, but overseas,” she said. “We also want to help them appreciate diversity and engender among them a culture of giving back and social responsibility. We will model these values to them and give them opportunities to model it to others through enterprise development, community service, teamwork and peer mentorship.”


In supporting the program, Miss Jamaica World and Miss World Caribbean 2013, Gina Hargitay, has agreed to be a chaperone for Pathfinders of Canada’s first international summer mission to Jamaica next year.


As a United Nations youth ambassador for the Caribbean and Latin America, 19-year-old Hargitay said she has seen first-hand the challenges that young people face. They include being raised in single households, educational disparity and poverty.


“Pathfinders of Canada is a program that can help tackle some of these problems,” she said. “The after-school program that you are offering means that youths are being offered guidance and mental stimulation that busy single parents simply don’t have the time to give. The positive environment in which young people will be placed during the Pathfinders experience means they will benefit from the realization of the fun they could have through learning educational and productive life skills.”


“As Minister of Children & Youth Services and the mother of two teenagers, I recognize how important it is to provide mentorship to the next generation of leaders,” said Tracy MacCharles, who is the MPP for Pickering-Scarborough East. “I have true admiration and respect for programs like Pathfinders of Canada that are committed to helping our young people succeed. I am particularly inspired and impressed by the program’s motto, ‘Together We Strive’.


“It’s our collective responsibility to ensure that tomorrow’s leaders are provided with the skills and experience that they will need to overcome any challenges and obstacles in their lives. The Pathfinders will do just that. Time is never wasted when it’s spent investing in and supporting other individuals, especially our young people.”


Joining Johnson on the Pathfinders executive team are Colonel Bob Barnabas and Brigadier Marvin Watson, who is the RCM founder and Pathfinders of Canada commandant and chief director general.


“It’s our vision to transform young people into productive and well-rounded citizens,” said Watson. “We need something that would guide and make them into model citizens and that is what we are aiming for. We want to mould young people to become productive citizens.”



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