By Krista Murray, Communications Manager
Peel Children and Youth Initiative

A group of eager young faces made up the crowd at the second annual Peel Youth Leaders Conference July 16. The youth, from all walks of life, were a bit nervous, but mostly excited as they gathered for a conference helping them to take on leadership roles in their community.

Antoinette Ellis, the conference’s Master of Ceremonies and a former PCYI employee, took to the podium to break the ice. Her engaging, warm presence immediately had the crowd laughing and at ease, getting to know each other, and ready to kick off an inspirational day.

“I have worked in youth engagement in Peel for many years,” said Antoinette. “As a professional speaker, this seemed like a natural fit for me to give back and do something that I love, in my hometown.”

Participants pose with speaker Karl Ludwig, Canadian Olympic Sledge hockey player
Participants pose with speaker Karl Ludwig, Canadian Olympic Sledge hockey player.

Sixty youth, ages 14-24, from across Peel Region (Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon) gathered at the Centre for Health and Safety Innovation in Mississauga for the free conference. The day featured workshops, networking and a volunteer and career exhibit linking youth with tangible opportunities to forward their goals. Each participant walked away with a t-shirt, notebook and certificate. Breakfast, lunch and a candy bar kept participants sustained throughout the day and offered opportunities for networking to happen, synergies to be sparked and friendships to be built. Participants fostered new relationships with one another, and with the workshop leaders, and enhanced their toolkits for taking on meaningful leadership roles in their community.

Workshop leaders included Anthony Gale and Karl Ludwig, Canadian sledge hockey Paralympians who competed in Sochi this year. They talked about key leadership tactics in sports, as well as how they made positive changes living their lives with a disability. Uko Abara, a Youth Amplifier and contributor to the Feathers of Hope report, discussed authentic youth advocacy in the area of Aboriginal youth issues. Glen Bacarro, a motivational speaker for youth, talked about identity, overcoming obstacles and key strategies for empowering yourself. Glen led the group in a team line dancing activity to complete the day.

Motivational speaker, Glen Bacarro, leads the conference attendees in a team building line dance. MC, Antoinette Ellis (in blue), joins in.
Motivational speaker, Glen Bacarro, leads the conference attendees in a team building line dance. MC, Antoinette Ellis (in blue), joins in.

“The conference is a forum for youth to get together, learn and create new ideas” said Maryan Osman, a participant and Peel Children and Youth Initiative Youth Advisory Council member. “This conference is really designed by youth, for youth.”

“I met kids with big ideas who are on an ambitious leadership track,” Antoinette added. “These youth are working to change the world. They will be our colleagues one day, and surely our leaders.”

The conference was hosted by the Peel Children and Youth Initiative (PCYI) and sponsored by the Collette Foundation. View media coverage here.

The Peel Children and Youth Initiative is a backbone organization focussed on collective impact and collaboration to facilitate meaningful change with a mission to ensure that all children and youth in Peel will thrive. PCYI plays a youth advisory role in Peel through its Youth Advisory Council – a group of youth ages 14-24 who represent the Peel youth voice and act as an authentic lens for all work. To learn more, visit www.pcyi.org.

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The path to leadership: a look at the 2nd Annual Peel Youth Leaders Conference