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Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities

Archived Backgrounder

Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities

Office of the Premier

The new Ontario government has established the first Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities to provide advice on how best to improve the delivery and design of government programs and services for youth.

The council will engage youth, young professionals and community partners to learn about specific challenges and share ideas about how to best support youth, including the development of a multi-year Ontario Youth Strategy to improve youth outcomes. The council will report to the Premier and the Minister of Children and Youth Services.

Fifteen members of the council were selected through a targeted outreach and consultations with key stakeholders who serve at-risk youth and marginalized communities. The government will appoint the additional 10 members later this spring. Council members represent a variety of cultures, communities and backgrounds.

Council Members

Lekan Olawoye - Chair

Lekan grew up in Jamestown, Rexdale and his personal experience of loss led him to the social work profession. Lekan's community work began at a young age when he coached and mentored his peers at his high school in Rexdale as a senior student. Lekan obtained his Bachelor of Social Work degree at Ryerson University and completed his Masters in Social Work at the University of Toronto. He has also become a graduate of the United Way's Creative Institute of Toronto's Young Leaders and the CivicAction's DiverseCity Fellow Program.

Lekan is currently Executive Director of the For Youth Initiative - a youth organization committed to creating opportunities for youth at-risk. He plays a pivotal role in providing empowering youth programs and services that are transformational, inclusive and accessible. Lekan also sits on the board of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and is a 2012 Governor General's Canadian Leadership Conference alumnus. He was also named a Vital Person 2012 through the Toronto Community Foundation and is a past winner of the Innovation award through United Way Toronto.

Chelsea Edwards - Vice-Chair

Chelsea is a Grade 12 student living in Attawapiskat, a remote First Nation community of 1,500 people in northern Ontario. Chelsea is the youth spokesperson for Shannen's Dream, a campaign for safe and comfortable schools and equitable education on reserves. She has publicly spoken about the inequities in education and other areas affecting First Nations children and youth in Canada.

As an Aboriginal Youth Ambassador of Canada, Chelsea met with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to discuss the issues facing Aboriginal youth, including education, health, child welfare, culture and languages. Chelsea graduated from the Aboriginal Summer Law Program at the University of Toronto in July 2012.

Liban Abokor

Liban believes in the transformative potential of collaboration and education to empower and enhance community health. In his role as Managing Director of Youth Leadership in Educational Attainment with Partners in Scarborough (Youth LEAPS), Liban is responsible for overseeing the delivery of a coordinated, community-based response to educational attainment in support of at-risk youth living in Scarborough.

Liban's personal, professional and academic experiences inform his approaches to youth and community capacity building. Liban majors in Political Science at York University and is a Board Director of The Laidlaw Foundation.

Victor Beausoleil

Victor is a trainer, conflict mediator, youth advocate and community organizer, as well as a lecturer on youth engagement, cultural competency, education and community development. As a lecturer, Victor has travelled extensively throughout Canada and the United States for speaking engagements for the RCMP, community organizations and youth justice agencies. As a youth advocate, Victor is dedicated to supporting marginalized and under-served youth across Toronto. He has also worked as a Provincial Youth Outreach Worker, Youth Engagement Coordinator and Project Manager. Currently, he is the Executive Director of Redemption Reintegration Services.

Victor volunteers weekly to support the reintegration of young men through the Rites of Passage program. He is currently the Chair of the For Youth Initiative Board of Directors, and is a Board member of the Atkinson Charitable Foundation and the Harriet Tubman Community Organization. Victor has also served as a member of the grant review committees for the Laidlaw Foundation and for Toronto Community Housing Social Investment Fund.

Claire Bodkin

Claire supported the design and execution of Ontario's youth engagement strategies and development of Stepping Stones: A Resource on Youth Development as a member of the Youth Development Committee. Claire continues her passion for youth in her current role as Camp Manager for YMCA of Western Ontario, Camp Queen Elizabeth, where over 1,800 Ontario children and youth access recreational and leadership development outdoor-based programs annually.

As a member of the YMCA Ontario Residential Camp Workgroup Steering Committee and chair of Peer Reviews, Claire ensures YMCA camps across Ontario continue to support the healthy development of children's spirit, mind, and body. Claire has also recently joined the volunteer team at Camp Ten Oaks, which provides empowering camp opportunities to children from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBT) families across Ontario.

Duane Dahl

As Assistant Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hamilton for the last 13 years, Duane is helping Hamilton youth achieve their goals and pursue their dreams in 23 service locations across the city. Duane also serves as Chair for the Hamilton Youth Collaborative (HYC), a group of youth service agencies and public institutions in Hamilton's health, education and social service sectors.

As Chair of HYC, Duane is passionate about making Hamilton more youth-friendly and enabling young people in Hamilton to reach their full potential. Duane is an active member of the Vision Team for the New Generation Youth Centre.

Adam Diamond

Adam is passionate about youth issues and is dedicated to improving services and supports provided to youth-in-care. He has also worked extensively with immigrant youth, refugees and youth living with HIV. Adam was one of the pioneers of YouthCAN, a youth-in-care network in Ontario. He co-chaired six regional YouthCAN groups and a provincial youth policy advisory and advocacy group (YPAAG). In 2008, Adam was awarded a Child Welfare League of Canada's Outstanding Achievement Award for Youth Leadership.

Today, Adam works at the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies as a policy analyst. He serves as President of the Board of Directors for the National Youth in Care Network and is an active advisory committee member for Positive Youth Outreach.

Natricia Drummond

Natricia studied psychology at the University of Toronto. During her time at university, she developed a passion for supporting youth dealing with mental health issues. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for Children's Mental Health Ontario. She has worked with East Metro Youth Services since 2008. In her current role with a Youth Challenge Fund initiative she works to explore, develop and incubate new approaches to funding and facilitating youth development in east Toronto.  

As project co-ordinator, Natricia's responsibilities include developing training opportunities and workshops, forging strategic partnerships with community agencies, overseeing staff and volunteers, and developing strategies for advocacy, sustainability and research.

Lucas Egan

Lucas is a 12th grade student from Ajax attending École Secondaire Catholique Saint-Charles-Garnier. Lucas has been a member of the Association des Élèves du Secondaire du District Catholique Centre-Sud for over three years, and has served as President since 2012. Lucas is also the Vice-President of the Fédération de la Jeunesse Franco-Ontarienne, an organization that represents Ontario's 25,000 young francophones attending 94 French schools across the province.

Lucas is passionate about politics and education, and is studying Human Rights and Conflict studies at the University of Ottawa.

Pytor Hodgson

Pytor has 20 years experience in developing, managing and evaluating positive youth development programs with a focus on engaging marginalized youth. He is the CEO of Three Things Consulting, an organization committed to positive youth and community development and a recognized national speaker, ally and advocate for young people. Pytor is a former Executive Director of a youth organization, front line worker in residential programming, and a grassroots organizer. He has been recently appointed to the Canadian Women's Foundation National Task Force on Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada. 

Pytor is Ojibwa and has strong relationships and connections to First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities.

Jolene John

Jolene is a proud Onkwehonwe Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. She currently resides in Toronto where she works as the Aboriginal Recruitment & Community Liaison at York University and is enrolled in a Masters of Education program with a focus on Urban Aboriginal Education.

Jolene attributes her success at York to her involvement with the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services, where she was an executive member on the Aboriginal Students' Association and a former captain of York's Varsity Women's Rugby team. She is active in the Friendship Centre movement and sits on Provincial and National Aboriginal Youth Councils.

Erika Maki

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Erika is 19 years old and enrolled in the social work program at Lakehead University. She describes herself as a serious, conscientious and compassionate student and is proud to have been awarded the Honour Roll Medal throughout high school.

When she was two years old, Erika was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a condition that today affects mostly her legs. Erika is an Easter Seal ambassador, and continues to be involved with the organization. She has also been a member of the Thunder Bay Library's Youth Advisory Council, and a volunteer in the Library's 'Readers are Leaders' program.

Tasheka Mason

Upon graduating from Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute in June 2011, Tasheka joined Tropicana Community Services as a Summer Job Youth Coordinator. Tasheka now works with Community Empowering Enterprises to help promote social enterprise pilot projects that will benefit African Diasporic, racialized and criminalized youth.

Tasheka is currently Board Chair of Redemption Reintegration Services, a youth-led initiative sponsored by the Youth Challenge Fund that provides services to African/Caribbean Canadian youth involved in the criminal justice system. Tasheka is also a Volunteer Executive Director for Healin' Scars, a motivational speaker and theatre director.

Maverick Smith

Maverick is dedicated to creating a safe mental, physical and emotional environment for Toronto's queer and transgender youth and their allies. Through his involvement in the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), including through the Totally Outright Youth Advisory Committee, Maverick is working to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in the queer youth community.

Maverick developed the curriculum and led workshops for ACT's Totally outRIGHT youth program. He has also previously been an Online Outreach Volunteer for ACT.  As a Queering Sex Ed Youth Advisory Committee member, Maverick is collaborating with Planned Parenthood Toronto to develop a sexual education resource for the LGBTQ youth community.

Shadya Yasin

Born in Somalia, Shadya lived in Tanzania and Kenya before moving to Canada in 1998 as a teenager. She double-majored in African studies and international development at York University, is a certified teacher and is finishing a Masters in Education at University of Toronto.

In recent years, Shadya helped organize a youth walk to Ottawa to bring attention to the famine in Somali; has connected Toronto youth with First Nations people at Moose Deer Point near Sudbury; and travelled to Tanzania with Toronto at-risk youth as part of the Creating Global Citizens program to encourage youth volunteerism. Shadya is a network co-ordinator for the York Youth Coalition where she oversees 18 youth servicing agencies in the Weston-Mt. Dennis community.



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