The impact of youth development programs on local community building

March 20, 2023

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When it comes to providing positive outcomes for young people, combining the resources of family, community and schools has proven to be the recipe for success.[1] However, we believe youth development programs do more than just change the lives of the kids – they also impact the community in positive ways. According to a review done in the UK, ‘there is a clear link between the kind of society we aspire to be and the chances we offer to our next generation of voters, citizens, employees and parents,’ which put a particular emphasis on the benefit of programs offered to young people outside of school and within their communities.[2] Other studies in the US have shown how young people can be ‘active participants in solving problems and providing services at the community level’ and recognize young people as competent ‘community builders.’[3] Non-profit organizations offering youth development programs also positively impact the economy, increase community engagement and offer solutions for communities that other entities may not be able to provide.

Two Wheel View’s impact on our community

We have impacted our community in significant ways. Perhaps the first and most obvious is that by giving youth the tools to successfully interact with their communities, we have facilitated positive relationships between young people and the adults in their lives. Our programs, by encouraging leadership competencies and helping young people practice communication skills, are helping to change the perspective on what youth can be and how they can contribute to society. We have also given young people the opportunity to interact with and contribute to their communities in positive ways beyond our programs, such as at the recent Birdies for Kids Shaw Charity Classic golf tournament where two of our youth got the opportunity to caddy for PGA Tour players.

We have also helped reduce intolerance in our community by encouraging diversity within our programs and fostering greater acceptance amongst people of different ages, backgrounds, experiences and cultures. One prime example of this is our Quebec Exchange Trip, which saw youth from Morley First Nations community join students from Montreal along the famous Route Verte in Quebec. Later in the year, the young people joined up again, this time in Alberta, cycling from Calgary to Banff.

We believe that every member of our community is valuable and that we should work together to achieve a greater impact that benefits us all. We encourage collaboration and teamwork in our community with a wide variety of stakeholders and promote the ideals of being collaborative rather than competitive. We especially support collaboration between non-profit organizations and businesses and have been particularly thankful for our partnerships with Brookfield Residential Calgary, BikeBike Calgary and Century Downs Racetrack to name a few. We have also impacted our community by providing volunteer opportunities, which has resulted in significant benefits to both our volunteers and the young people in our community.

We have provided our community a safe, inclusive and positive place for gathering. The Beltline Bike Club is a free program offered throughout the school year, offering opportunities for young people in the downtown area to build their own bike, during the critical hours outside of school where youth are most often at risk. Our ‘Adventurers’ lecture series brings together young people, families and community heroes for an evening of adventure and storytelling. We have even impacted our community online; by interacting with bicycle and youth development enthusiasts on social media, we’ve been able to help grow our community and share the value of our programs even further afield.

Two Wheel View has had an environmental impact as well; by encouraging the community to donate their used bikes we’ve saved hundreds of bikes from going into the landfill, contributing directly to waste reduction in our city. As an organization that sees bikes as a tool with a number of different purposes, we help reduce emissions by promoting commuting by bicycle and when we moved offices, we did much of the move by bike.

Two Wheel has been greatly impacted by the support of our community – without the wonderful people who have come across our path in one way or another, we wouldn’t be able to make the difference we do in the lives of so many of our community’s young people. We are proud that we’ve been able to say thank you by giving back to our city, our province, our country and our world in such positive ways.

[1] Catalano et al. (1998). Positive youth development in the United States: Research findings on evaluations of positive youth development programs. Social Development Research Group, University of Washington. Retrieved September 16, 2018.

[2] Casey, L. (2016). The Casey Review: a review into opportunity and integration. Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. Retrieved September 16, 2018.

[3] Finn, J. & Checkoway, B. (1998). Young People as Competent Community Builders: A Challenge to Social Work. Social Work, 43 (4), pp. 335-345. Retrieved September 16, 2018.

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Intentional community building should not be overlooked. When we come together, we talk through our insecurities, our uncertainties and share stories to help us better understand each other and the world we live in.

TWV Team Member

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