During my Bachelor’s degree in Sexology, people talked about how they wanted to work with youth. I specifically thought I wanted to work as a therapist with trans individuals. I wasn’t really into the idea of working with youth, at all. I was just coming out of high school and I was thinking “I never want to go back in there”. Then I did a placement with a youth organization in Montreal. One of my mandates of that placement was to do workshops in high schools and I was terrified at the idea of speaking publicly and being surrounded by teenagers. I ended up adoring both.
Because of that, I decided to stay within youth work. I didn’t want to have a job were I just did counselling in an office. Looking back, I realize how hard it is to be a young adult. I wanted to interact with them in their living environment, whether it was in their school, their community or their houses. To be able to be here now and support youth in their daily routine is really beautiful.
I met and fell in love with my partner, who is from Halifax. We tried to stay in Montreal but it is hard, if you don’t speak French, to find a job so we decided to move where my partner is from. Before the move, I already knew that I wanted to work with Phoenix, based on Google searches of community youth organizations. As I read the mandate and the approach of Phoenix, I realized how I shared their values and how much I wanted to work here. It took me over a year of applying to get my job with Phoenix but it was worth it.
Case management is one of my favourite things about this job. I am really able to support youth, create a plan with them and look into community supports. Advocating for the youth allows me to build relationships with them. Not all youth are in the same spot in their lives, but it’s where they are here at and I am able to support them – that is wonderful.
This year it was my job to organize the Phoenix float for Pride. It was stressful and busy at times but it was special. The fact that teenagers were awake at 9:30am and so ready to help us get the float ready was so moving. They brought so much energy — it made all the overnights, evening and weekend shifts worth it. They just helped out with everything. They had great ideas and really took ownership of that float.
Our truck driver was also so helpful. The day before, he was sending us photos of the truck bed along with ideas of what we could do. He had energy just like the youth. He helped us figure out how to make railings and even helped us tear down after the parade was done. The whole day just really came together because of everyone.
Every day is a day of discovery for me. I have a lot of pride in our youth. I have hopes and know that if they feel empowered to be something, they can achieve that. Phoenix youth are impressive. They’re surprising. They just constantly amaze me when they are able to draw strength from where you wouldn’t think that there is.
I have learned to be patient and understand how youth are at different spaces in their lives, working at different rhythms with what they have and adapting to it. Interacting with them really helped change my perspective.
Laurie has been with Phoenix since 2015 as a Key Worker - three months at the Youth and Community Centre in Mulgrave Park and the rest of her time at the Shelter.