Youth Make a Positive Impact

Out of the box ideas are the doctor’s orders for recipients of Youth VOICE grants.

The founders of Youth VOICE (Vision Of Innovation for Community Empowerment) began with a clear objective: Give students the opportunity to get involved with their communities and make a positive impact.

Started by Grace Moe, who works in health systems redesign and innovation, and co-founded by Dr. Allan Bailey, with help from Dr. Keith McNicol, Youth VOICE aims to support “out of the box” initiatives. “Ideas other than another walkathon or bike-a-thon,” says Bailey.

The organization provides grants, held at Edmonton Community Foundation, to teams of Grade 7-12 students who aspire to create changes in their communities. This can be achieved by raising a community issue, addressing a community need or resolving an identified challenge in the community. The teams must be endorsed by a school and have a direct community partner. Though the grant was previously only available to students in the Tri- Region area (Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the surrounding First Nations), Youth VOICE has recently expanded its reach to include all of metro Edmonton.

Moe, Bailey and McNicol worked with Indigenous youth through their positions in the WestView Primary Care Network, and say Youth VOICE was born out of what they have learned in their roles and with encouraging support from the WestView Physician Collaborative.

Bailey also collaborated with a volunteer group in the Tri-region area known as ACT (Achieving Community Together) over the last six years. Through those experiences he was exposed to social innovation including the theory of collective impact. The framework of Youth VOICE evolved out of those experiences.

“We wanted to encourage kids to get out and be comfortable and confident talking to people in the community, and to work with the community,” says Bailey. “The intention is that they get an opportunity to rub shoulders with social innovation, and to give them a positive early life experience that, hopefully, will encourage them on that pathway.”

While Bailey and McNicol are the doctors behind the project, they say Youth VOICE came to fruition because of Moe.

“She was the agent who enabled dreamers like Keith and I to see things come to concrete outcomes. She’s an innovator herself,” says Bailey.

“I think she just really loves helping youth meet their full potential… and I think this grant is just an expression of that,” says McNicol.

McNicol says teachers also play an important role. “I think there are real innovators in the school system that could benefit with linking students with this grant, and it will give the teachers an opportunity to mentor kids in a way that they might not otherwise be able to do. It gives teachers another tool to help kids with extra interests excel and learn and think outside the box.”

The most recent project Youth VOICE supported involved students meeting with local seniors and elders to record stories. The hope was to create “an intergenerational shared experience,” according to Bailey.

In the coming year, the program will support three projects with up to $5,000 in funding each. Bailey, Moe and McNicol are eager to see the new ideas from eligible applicants.

Greater Edmonton area residents in Grades 7-12 can apply for Youth VOICE funding on our Youth VOICE webpage. Applicants must partner with a registered charity, which can include their school. The final application deadline for 2023 is October 31.

Apply for Youth VOICE