In celebration of this year’s International Youth Day (August 12) we had a chance to interview an amazing Island Health youth volunteer who lives and volunteers in the Port Hardy region. Isadora, aged 15, started volunteering with the Step Up Youth (SUY) program in the fall of 2022 and has continued to dedicate her time to local Long-Term Care residents, showing a passion for her community and a strong desire to make a difference.
When asked how she got started, Isadora told us, “The Step Up Youth program was introduced to me by my school councillor while I was still attending a physical school (Isadora now attends school online). As I was reading about it, I was in awe thinking of the possibilities.”
It was with her evident enthusiasm that Isadora became the SUY program’s first youth volunteer in her community.
Isadora, Volunteer, Step Up Youth (SUY) program
Erin Scott, Youth Volunteer Engagement Specialist, was immediately impressed with Isadora’s passion for helping others.
“Part of why Isadora really stands out is because of her continued dedication to staying involved. She always attended our online guest speaker sessions and came prepared with insightful questions. Her interest and excitement for the future of healthcare is very clear, which is something we want to foster, especially in our remote and rural communities.”
Isadora’s enthusiasm and dedication has also sprung other opportunities. “I've been involved in the educational system through my experience as a teacher's assistant in class, running a program where I help kids with their reading comprehension, and took part in a youth advisory committee.”
Several months into her time with the SUY program Isadora ran into a challenge. “I was learning so much and was connecting with staff who were interested in recruiting more people into healthcare. However, in January, I suddenly didn't have any way of getting to and from town, so unfortunately I had to put all my plans on hold.”
It was at this point that Isadora’s strong commitment shone through. She decided that if she couldn’t be on site she would continue to make greeting cards for the residents.
“It had been months since I left - residents and staff were changing, but despite this, I continued making these cards. I had no way of really getting them into town since we were so far out, but I still kept making them in the hopes of returning soon. It involves two things I like: doing things for others, and art.”
A few months later Isadora was able to access regular transportation and return to volunteering on site. Her role includes helping with bingo nights, but Isadora maintains that her passion lies in cheering up residents with her art.
“I really like to give my art away because it makes me really happy. I just want to help as much as I can.”
When asked what the most rewarding part of her volunteering is, this inspiring teen simply replied:
“Feeling fulfilled. Getting to forget about myself and just help others. I believe that people should have their emotional needs met – and helping others accomplish that - even if just a little is the best feeling. My greatest hope is that I can continue this for years to come so I can make a bigger impact on the world around me.”
Innovative thinking and her participation in the youth advisory committee has recently given Isadora the opportunity to speak in person with her local MLA and to “bring up issues I believe should be addressed like access to transportation.”
Andrea Pipes, Director of Volunteer Resources, says that Isadora’s challenge with transportation has also inspired the Volunteer Resources & Engagement department to look into how Island Health might support youth volunteers facing challenges such as transportation. “We want to remove barriers and ensure that youth across our region have access to our volunteer opportunities. We’re working towards solutions, and we hope to have something in place for our SUY program volunteers this fall.”
What does the future look like for Isadora? “I’m currently 15 and although I’m still young and have so much more growing up to do, I feel as though I am aging faster because of how much preparation the lead up to university is! I'm doing a tonne of research and working hard to take the right classes and make the most of my opportunities.”
“We’re so lucky to have someone as keen and giving as Isadora to be representing the Step Up Youth program in Port Hardy!” said Erin. “I’m sure her enthusiasm will spread as we work towards building the program in that community.”
The Step Up Youth program was created to help grow the next generation of healthcare workers by providing opportunities for youth aged 15 - 18 to gain experience in the healthcare system through learning modules, guest speakers, and active participation in volunteer roles. The three tenets of the SUYP are: step up and C.A.R.E., step up and LEARN and step up and LEAD. Most SUYP volunteers are interested in exploring careers in healthcare, and Volunteer Resources and Engagement staff write a significant number of reference letters for program graduates seeking entrance into health-related post-secondary programs.
Volunteers not only spend time volunteering in-person, but also meet online monthly to connect with guest speakers in the healthcare industry. This year they learned from Island Health Physicians, Nurses, Medical Imaging Technologists, and Communications Professionals. They also heard from our Health Human Resources team about student jobs and entry-level Island Health careers after high school.
For more information about the Step Up Youth program including locations, entry requirements and application details please visit Step Up Youth.