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Cultivating the Seeds of Success - What Does Success Look Like in a Youth Organization?

The Jeunesse Loyola logo, printed on an animator's blue shirt.

For six weeks throughout the summer, every day at 4pm, when all of our participants have left day camp, the staff sits together. And we talk. We bring up issues that have arisen throughout the day, challenges that we’ve inevitably faced when dealing for eight hours with energetic children, different approaches that we can adopt when finding ourselves in specific situations. There always are, and always will be, certain moments in which we could have acted differently, different ways in which an interpersonal conflict could have been deescalated. There will always be activities that we will try which the children will simply not be as excited about. But when being critical about the things that we can improve on, it is important to also do the opposite, and ask ourselves, what does success look like? In a culture where being successful is so closely tied to financial profit, how can one define success when we remove a monetary metric from the equation?

At its core, community work is about improving the lives of people around us. At Jeunesse Loyola, we work towards providing a safe space for the youth of NDG, to create a sense of community and welcoming to all of its families. Safety, community, empowerment – all these concepts can be very personal and subjective. As opposed to a profit-driven mission, our work focuses on the qualitative, rather than the numerical. It can, then, be complicated to understand when we are doing a good job. I took the time to talk to several of our directors, coordinators, and staff to explore the idea of success and to understand when we are doing a good job. Generally, the answers were very similar, and they range in scale and in scope.

There is, first and foremost, success at the individual level. If a child comes to our program and leaves feeling more at home, more understood, or simply a little happier than they were before getting to us, we can consider that a successful day. If a kid’s life is better today than it was yesterday, that is also success. Even being able to provide a child with a healthy meal can be a manifestation of success. With a more long-term perspective, we envision creating a welcoming culture where the youth who come to our programs know that they have a safe space that they can consistently rely on, and we attempt to have a positive impact on the children’s lives by providing an environment where they feel empowered to learn, grow, and let their strengths shine.

Success is not simply defined by our participants, but the organization itself is an important factor when we’re measuring the effectiveness of our work. At Jeunesse Loyola, we do not simply work for the community – we are trying to create a community with our work. By encouraging our animators to become leaders and role models for the youth, and by prioritizing hiring from within the NDG community, ideally from participants of our programs, we are trying to create a self-sustaining culture in which the kids in our programs look up to our animators, and later grow up to be the role models by whom they were inspired. A child who comes to our activities and is later interested in being a leader for their peers can become a counselor-in-training, an animator, a coordinator… but the opportunities in our organization are not limited to working in direct contact with the youth. By providing programs to the youth in which they learn about arts and culture, leadership, management, we also attempt to open up positions in the communication, administrative, and directive teams.

Everyone has a different idea of success. And everyone’s success looks different. Sometimes it will be difficult to see through the hardship, the hurt. Sometimes it will look small, almost invisible – but seeds can grow with patience and support. At Loyola, we envision a future in which the children who are now benefiting from the services that we provide will one day grow up to be the very people who run the organization, in turn creating a safe space for the next generations to feel at home, self-aware, confident, and empowered. We choose to believe in a future where these seeds will grow to provide shade and nourishment; we choose to believe in a community which gives back. This is the essence of our work, and we cannot imagine a more meaningful vision of success.

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Teri  Di Gennaro
Teri Di Gennaro

I love seeing the organization and the kids thriving 😍

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