Today – International Youth Day – is when we celebrate the potential and promise of extraordinary young people all over the world. The United Nations has declared this day to recognize the role young women and men play as essential partners in change, and to raise awareness about the challenges and problems they face.
Here in Halton and Hamilton, we are fortunate with the number of children and teens who are making a positive difference in the lives of those around them. They bring energy and curiosity to everything they do, and more often than not, provide a fresh perspective that benefits us all.
At United Way, we believe strongly in our youth and that’s why All that Kids Can Be is one of our national focus areas. We are committed to giving children and youth the support they need to fuel a great start on life, do well in school, and reach their full potential.
That’s why, this past year, we invested United Way donor dollars in a wide range of programs that helped more than 84,000 children and youth in this region. Those programs were clustered around a few central and fundamental issues.
One is that bullying and cyber-bullying remains a daily challenge for many children and youth. In fact, statistics show that bullying affects one in four Ontario students. United Way Halton & Hamilton has partnered with agencies that deliver top notch programs that are helping children and youth understand how wrong bullying is, and how to overcome it.
A second issue relates directly to the United Nations’ theme for this International Youth Day – Transforming Education. Although we think our country is more advanced than most when it comes to education, the sad truth is that one in four Canadian children are not ‘school ready’ when they start Grade 1. We know from research in this field that early access to literature and books improves a child’s academic performance throughout their schooling.
Another factor that impacts a student’s readiness to learn is hunger. 66,000 Halton and Hamilton residents – including children – live with food insecurity. These kids are missing out on breakfast, and not surprisingly, that puts them at a learning disadvantage.
United Way Halton & Hamilton is investing in special programs that address both these issues, and many more – programs that focus on early learning, mental health, after school supports and on giving children the nutritious breakfast they all need to succeed.
Through United Way and its partner agencies, our donors are transforming education for the children and youth of Halton and Hamilton. Those students inspire us by demonstrating every day that they represent hope for the future.
I invite you to take this opportunity – on International Youth Day – to encourage a young person to keep pursuing their dreams. Let them know you believe in them and that you will help them lead fulfilling lives.
President & CEO