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An OCDSB Student's Story of Resilience and Triumph

Damien Hébert, one of our incredible videographers with Hot Shoe Productions has grappled with intense barriers at a young age.  Despite these barriers, he is a source of inspiration and encouragement. We’re thrilled to share his story as he pushes past challenges and overcomes obstacles to achieve education and career success. 

At the age of seven , Damien was in a serious car accident. He was unable to walk, suffered extensive nerve damage, and spent the following three years in rehabilitation. This put a strain on his studies, and he felt exiled and different from other students.

In 2020, Damien transferred to Norman Johnston Alternative School because of the flexible scheduling, smaller class sizes, and workplace opportunities. Here, Damien was introduced to Youth Ottawa’s Youth Active Media Program (YAM). The YAM program is run in various OCDSB schools. The program uses an experiential learning approach – students learn by doing to develop filmmaking, video, and audio production skills, in addition to new attitudes and ways of thinking. Students can apply the skills they learn to a variety of personal and professional projects, including podcasting, short films, personal narratives, TV shows, and music videos.

When Damien joined the YAM program, Youth Ottawa and the OCDSB were working with CBC Ottawa on a project called ‘The Storytelling Lab.’ This month-long project gave students access to workshops led by CBC mentors and helped them craft their own personal narrative stories. The program also gave participants a platform to showcase their scripts and videos to their communities through an intimate screening.

Students visit the CBC Ottawa headquarters during the Storytelling Lab project

“It was a remarkable program that we designed with the tremendous support of Richard Pfaff lead teacher, Peter Grant, Principle Patrick McCarthy and the staff from CBC Ottawa.” – Jesse Card, Youth Active Media Coordinator.

Damien was putting the finishing touches on his video as the March break started, and soon afterwards, Ontario declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19. As the world, including teachers, students, and staff at Youth Ottawa, scrambled to adjust, several of the students from the CBC Storytelling Lab, including Damien, continued to work diligently on their video projects online.

A Little Inspiration Goes a Long Way


Through his personal narrative video, Damien decided to share his experience with the car accident and the intense challenges he encountered in his recovery. Since releasing this video, Damien has been employed by Hot Shoe Productions (Youth Ottawa’s affiliate social enterprise in partnership with the Social Planning Council) as a videographer.

“I enjoyed the YAM program. All the instructors and people I’ve met who were working with the programs were kind and accommodating to our ideas. The courses are something I would recommend to my peers who have an interest in film and who are still in school. It’s a great way to learn the field with some hands-on experience and great instructors.” says Damien.

Damien has realized his passion for storytelling and sees a path forward in videography and filmmaking where he didn’t before. 

“Without doing the program, I wouldn’t have believed or even knew I had an option with a job in videography. The courses helped influence me into wanting to be serious in this field of business.” Damien Hébert

Damien on set of a shoot with Hot Shoe Productions

Learn More!

Now fully digital, Youth Active Media is a program created by Youth Ottawa and runs in partnership with the OCDSB. To learn more about how to bring this program to your classroom or community, please visit youthottawa.ca/yam.