Destination: UP - Reach Youth Group

Organization Sponsor: Heartwood Centre for Community Youth Development

Organization Partner: Art Experience/Art Smarts


Program Description

Destination: UP (unlimited Potential) is the umbrella for all of HeartWood's youth in care programs. Reach is a 3-year personal development program designed for youth in care ages 13 – 18. The program provides youth in care with an opportunity to recognize and enhance their skills, abilities, and confidence; allowing them to meet challenges and embrace personal passions in their own lives and communities. The youth meet every other month to participate as a group in a variety of events; from a weeklong wilderness trip in Cape Breton, Canoe Trip in the Valley, service expeditions, apple cider making, rock climbing, art projects and so much more!!!

Program Approximate Cost: 

free for participants

Funding Sources: 

The Youth Employability Project and The Physical Activiteis Grant, DEEP Water Experiential Education Project, Community Mobilization Fund: National Crime Prevention Strategy provide funding for part of Destination: UP

Strategies For Sustainability: 

Destintion: UP is supported by HeartWood. • HeartWood provides a program coordinator for Destination: UP and one core staff member dedicated to supporting the Reach group. These 2 staff work consistently with Reach and HeartWood will provide more staff when appropriate. These staff work to ensure that all aspects of the Reach group are supported including conversations with social workers, funding applications, and maintianing consistent and healthy relationships with the participants

Impact Of Program: 

• Reach promotes life-long physical activity by creating opportunities to master skills, become a mentor, increase confidence and develop relationships in their communities. During Reach, participants will be exposed to outdoor activities as well as be encouraged to develop spontaneous physical activity using their existing assets. The confidence gained from these activities enables them to access physical activity in any environment.
• The 3rd year of Reach focuses on transferring the young people’s learnings to their daily lives and communities to help them develop healthy life-long behaviors. Through service learning and mentoring opportunities the youth begin to identify and build relationships with their community. This will help the youth develop support systems in their community and become more active community members.
• Reach graduates also have the opportunity to come back as mentors and leaders in training for future Reach groups with the hopes that they will eventually run the program with the support of HeartWood staff. The youth can also further their development by participating in other Destination: UP or HeartWood programs.
• Reach uses the physical activities as tools for self-discovery, personal growth and group development. The activities provide opportunities to explore topics such as trust, communication, and decision-making: through discussions these topics are linked to the youths’ daily actions and behaviors. By participating in such a unique and positive learning environment the youth gain an increase self-esteem, boost confidence, reduce stress and help create more positive self-image.
• All HeartWood programs use simple healthy foods that the participants help prepare and cook.
• HeartWood recognizes that tobacco is an addiction and treats it accordingly on their programs.
• HeartWood’s safety education promotes safe decision making for personal and group challenges.

Evaluation Tools: 

The program will use creative evaluation methods to evaluate the success and progress of the program. During and at the end of each event, the youth will have opportunities to evaluate the current program as well as have input on the upcoming events and activities. Because youth in care often face writing and communication challenges, creative evaluation techniques like video cameras and drawing will be utilized in order to make the evaluation process inclusive and engaging. At the end of each event, the HeartWood staff will write a program report that will include the activities and objectives, learnings and challenges, and summarizes participants’ evaluation.

Key Elements Towards Success: 

The Reach model is based on conversations and research with youth in care and then applied to HeartWood’s model for community youth development. The current program’s success is exemplified by the participants desire to meet more often over an extended period of time. Every meeting will have a component of physical activity and adventure learning. All participants have the opportunity to participate, but no one is forced to participate. They will be supported in their learning and development during and between program events by program staff and the youth group. Transportation is one of the barriers youth in care face and part of the Physical Activity Grant will be allotted to transportation.

Here are some quotes from the most recent creative evaluation with the current Reach Group:
• “I like that we talk with other people and youth who understand what it is like”
• “I can control whether I keep or lose the trust… I have a million reasons to not trust. You have to earn my trust. HeartWood is not going anywhere. I have a reason to trust them and these people”
• “I like the community standards it is like we are back to equal ground” (community standards is an activity where the group creates the guidelines that they want to live by)
• “I love the whole program because you discuss issues, make community standards, play games about trust, leadership, and community building.”
• “I like that everyone is trustworthy and you learn leadership skills”
• “I like that we get to meet everyone again”
• “You guys give us trust”

Challenges To Meet Them: 

By targeting youth in care, Reach addresses some of the major barriers to physical activity. Financially, youth in care have firm budget restrictions for recreation and transportation. These restrictions combined with limited human resources compounds the challenges of accessing quality physical activity. Reach builds a unique peer and adult support group which creates a network for the youth to continue to explore activities in a healthy supportive environment. Because Reach meets over extended period of time, these activities become part of the young people’s lifestyles.

Length and Stage of Project: 

The current Reach group met this November marking its 15 month anniversary.

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