For 14 years, Atlantic Summer Institute on Healthy and Safe Communities (ASI) has held bilingual forums on PEI. Each annual event brings together approximately 160 participants from across Atlantic Canada and beyond.
All ASI programming reflects the diverse perspective of communities and individuals who are engaged in strengthening Atlantic communities and reduces barriers to participation by offering bursaries and subsidies to participants. ASI is managed by a Board of Directors and is supported by provincial and federal government departments, as well as private sector and philanthropic organizations.
ASI is committed to mentoring the next generation of Atlantic Canadian change leaders, and offers a Youth Leadership Program. The program provides an opportunity for young people to attend the forum and have a voice in shaping future plans for children and youth in Atlantic Canada.
At least five youth between the ages of 18 and 25 from each Atlantic province are chosen on the basis of their affiliation with a community group and their experience and interest in being an advocate or leader.
Alyssa Hoskins from Newfoundland was one of the youth selected for the Youth Leadership program at the 2018 ASI Forum: Lets Act Together! Creating a whole society approach to child and youth mental health. She graduated from high school in June of 2018 with honours.
“I made so many connections through this forum. I am going to Memorial University in September with the goal of becoming a social worker. Many people I met at the forum gave me more insight into this profession. I am beyond excited to start my post-secondary path.
“Growing up, I was severely bullied for years. By grade nine, I started to feel hopeless and depressed. For about six months, I did still attempt to make an appearance at school from time to time, but just very sporadically. I felt I was not a part of any community and didn’t feel I belonged anywhere.
“The hardest part of the time away from school was that no one noticed I was gone. When I dropped off the radar, no one reached out to me.
“I was tired of feeling helpless, and I finally realized that the change had to come from me. Once I told my mom what was wrong, we sought help from the mental health profession to get counselling, but the wait time was beyond long. I hope when I get older I can help to change this problem.
“I didn’t get the help I needed from a counsellor. I came out of my depression when my mom encouraged me to get out of the house. I volunteered at the blood bank, tutored students, and became a Brownie leader. When I was helping others, I felt my own confidence building.
“Being part of the community made a big difference. I got back to school and back on track with a new career focus.
“Now I am ready to move away from home to go to university, and I’m ready to make a change in the world with my career plans.”
What would have helped when she stopped going to school full-time in grade 9?
“Not hearing from the school or from friends really hurt. It would have made a big difference if I knew people cared. It also would have helped if the school had provided opportunities to talk about depression, ways to cope, and what supports are out there.
“The best help I did get was the support from my mom, who stayed by my side, listened to me, and encouraged me to get back out there.”
For more about Atlantic Summer Institute, visit www.asi-iea.ca.