There is an opportunity gap in our communities. Too often, young people’s race, ethnicity, economic status, or postal code determine which doors are open to them and which remain closed. It’s not that these young people can’t achieve—they’re not given the opportunity to. We know what is holding them back: income and access to youth programs. Often, the two go hand in hand.
That’s what the research says. Now here’s what we’re facing. One in five young children live in poverty in Canada and the number is one in four among Indigenous youth (2). In the United States, nearly 12 million kids—one in seven nationwide—live in poverty, with millions more hovering perilously close (3).
Youth living in poverty are more likely to face limited access to opportunities that expand their horizons and contribute to the development of important skills. This means a reduced ability to access out-of-school-time programs, such as clubs, teams, enrichment programs, and summer experiences. These types of experiences are essential to form supportive relationships with non-familial adults. These relationships are critical in a youth’s development (4) as they directly impact a young person’s sense of self, others, and community, and contribute to social and emotional wellbeing and development.
Communities of colour and newcomers to North America have faced significant inequities in access to nature and camp-based programs. Research has shown that a camp experience supports the development of social emotional skills, confidence, self-identity, independence, and resilience (5). Skills learned at camp last into young adulthood and are important for young people’s success in other settings such as work, college, and family life (5) (6) Camp-based learning is essential for thriving.
If we want all young people to thrive and reach their potential, we must bridge this opportunity gap.
That’s why we do what we do—to bridge the gap, open doors, and provide a positive developmental experience for youth.
- Youth Who Thrive (n.d.). Youth Who Thrive. https://youthwhothrive.ca
- Campaign 2000, (2021). Beyond the Pandemic: Rising up for a Canada Free of Poverty. https://campaign2000.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Campaign-2000-Beyond-the-Pandemic_Rising-up-for-a-Canada-free-of-Poverty_2020-report-card.pdf
- Poverty USA, 2022. Poverty Facts. https://www.povertyusa.org/facts
- Bowers, E. P., Johnson, S. K., Warren, D. J. A., Tirrell, J. M., & Lerner, J. V. (2015). Youth-Adult Relationships and Positive Youth Development. In: Bowers, E. et al., (eds) Promoting Positive Youth Development: Advances in Youth Development. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-219-17166-1_6
- Sibthorp, J., Wilson, C., Povilaitis, V., & Browne, L.P. (2020). Active ingredients of learning at summer camp. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 23, 21-37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42322-019-00050-6
- Wilson, C., Akiva, T., Sibthorp, J., & Browne, L. P. (2019). Fostering distinct and transferable learning via summer camp. Children and Youth Service Review, 98, 269-277. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.01.017