Introducing the 21 Under 21 Awards – A New Chapter for Youth Recognition.

Introducing the 21 Under 21 Awards

A New Chapter for Youth Recognition

Youth Ottawa, in collaboration with RBC, proudly introduces a newly revitalized Youth Awards Gala marking a significant milestone in our journey of celebrating youth achievement!! Formerly known as the Spirit of the Capital Awards, this ceremony has been dedicated to honoring youth for the past 26 years. Each year, the community is brought together to recognize the profound positive impact youth have on our community. 

In previous years the event shined the spotlight on youth nominated in one of seven categories. The categories included were Service and Caring, Max Keeping Award for Personal Courage, Academic Perseverance, Arts & Culture, Strength Through Diversity, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Take a Stand. Historically, these were used to capture qualities and attributes that commended outstanding service to others, personal growth, academic achievements, and creativity, with 14 youth being honoured annually.  

RBC Spirit Of The Capital - Youth Awards 2023

What to Expect this Year

Now, in its 27th year, the Spirit of the Capital has experienced an evolution, bringing forward newness and a fresh perspective. After years of planning and discussion, we are happy to introduce our Youth Awards Gala known as 21 under 21, dedicated to youth, re-vamped, and transformative. The new event will recognize 21 youth under the age of 21 who can nominate themselves or are nominated by individuals who have witnessed their dedication firsthand.

At its heart, the 21 Under 21 Youth Awards Gala will always remain true to the spirit of honoring the remarkable contributions made by local youth who have left an indelible mark on their communities, both locally and/or globally. These extraordinary individuals embody qualities of initiative, enthusiasm, and caring. They lean into the spirit of positive change and are a source of inspiration to others. By keeping our promise to honour them, and to reflect our dedication to inclusivity we have made the decision to remove award categories as we are committed to capturing the holistic recognition of young achievers, free from barriers.

In embracing this rebranding, Youth Ottawa reaffirms its core values of appreciating the spirit of youth, action, and the diverse journeys and achievements of young people, transcending conventional labels. We wholeheartedly believe in recognizing the full spectrum of youth accomplishments that bring about change, personal growth, or positive action and are committed to including every story and impact a youth may have had to make this world a better place.

An Unforgettable Gala Night!

Scheduled to grace the Shaw Centre on October 24th, 2024, this year’s gala also promises an engaging, inspiring, and elevated experience for all attendees. The Gala will include a vibrant mocktail hour and a plated dinner to reserve a space for community connection. We will also be adding photo booth installations to capture memories, youth performances, and a heartwarming awards presentation. This year we would love to extend the opportunity for attendees to get to know the 21 youth and their important contributions, so we are also including multimedia displays showcasing the impactful work of our city’s young talents. The stage is set for a truly unforgettable evening! We will be opening ticket registration for the event in August so keep an eye out on our socials! 

Nominations Opening May 7, 2024!

Every young person has something truly unique to offer, and we want to celebrate it all!
We extend an open invitation for nominations across all fields, inviting individuals to celebrate and honor the multifaceted talents of young leaders who have made significant contributions to their communities. If you are or know a young person who embodies the spirit of giving back, inspiring change, or demonstrating exemplary qualities, we encourage you to submit an application.

The nomination period for the 21 Under 21 Awards runs from May 7, 2024, to June 14, 2024. For more information and to apply please visit our events page. Join us as we embark on this exciting journey of recognizing and celebrating youth excellence in all its forms!

Beyond the Game: A Mission to Empower Youth through Community Basketball.

Beyond the Game

A Mission to Empower Youth through Community Basketball

“Good Shot, Nice Save, Eyes Up!”  Step into the world of youth basketball in the heart of the Overbrook community. Every week, young athletes gather for Youth Night, a program run by dedicated coach and professional trainer Will Davenport. Youth Night goes beyond playing basketball—it’s a chance for youth to feel empowered in life through a game they love. The program bonds together a coach’s mentorship and a dedicated team to encourage passion, excellence, and practice! 

This month, Youth Ottawa turns to the critical role sports play in shaping positive outcomes for youth in our society. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Will and the participants at Youth Night to learn all about the free program Will organizes and its profound impact on youth in the community. Read ahead to explore the significance of mentorship and empowerment through basketball with Youth Night.

Video courtesy of Vanna Noun – ReNoun Creation

A Game Changer: Yes, Sports Matter.

Playing sports isn’t just about competing for a victory. It is vital for maintaining overall positive well-being, both physically and mentally. Research continues to acknowledge and discover the overwhelming advantages of regular engagement in sports for youth populations. Studies underline a wave of benefits for youth involved in sports, ranging from cardiovascular health to enhanced cognitive development and academic performance. 

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of physical activity for mental health among youth. A long-term study from the University of Rotterdam confirms this, concluding that participation in sports during childhood is strongly linked to higher self-esteem later in life. Additionally, research findings cited in a recent ParticipACTION report suggest that increased physical activity relates to reduced mental health visits, improved focus, and decreased symptoms of depression. There’s no question that staying active through sports is a win for youth’s physical and mental well-being.

Navigating Barriers: A Call to Action

While the benefits of sports for youth are clear, access to programs often falls short due to financial constraints and limited resources. Rising costs make memberships and fees less affordable, with a recent Canadian survey revealing that 44 percent of parents struggle, citing affordability as the main reason preventing them from registering their children for organized sports, mainly due to rising recreational fees. This reality leaves marginalized communities disproportionately affected. Although some community centers offer free drop-in programs through city initiatives, capacity remains an issue as there are fewer centers to accommodate a growing population and increased competition with paid programming for space. 

These challenges, combined with a personal journey and love for the sport of basketball, inspired Will Davenport to be part of the solution for his community.

A Coach's Vision Brought to Life:

Will’s Youth Night, a grassroots initiative at the Overbrook community center, was born out of a desire to create opportunities for young athletes. Having experienced the loss of his father to suicide at a young age, Will recognizes the transformative power of basketball in his own life. With years of experience as a professional trainer and coach, coupled with his involvement in youth mentorship programs in the city, he noticed the gap in accessible sports programming and mentorship opportunities. In a society battling the challenges of mental health crisis, discrimination, and poverty, he wanted to give youth a safe and positive space where they could build confidence and have fun.

“Sport is the greatest analogy to life; through it you strive for the best, it creates lasting bonds, by bringing people together to work towards positive goals and life-changing moments.” – Will Davenport 


The program, funded by Will and the support of dedicated community sponsors, allows youth ages 13-17 to drop in for free on Friday nights to play ball and belong. Everyone is welcome, no matter their basketball abilities. The program also inspires kids who dream of playing professionally one day by offering free one-on-one coaching and enlisting the involvement of special guests, including university and professional-level players. Youth Night has also provided seasoned participants with some leadership opportunities as they work to support program demand through coaching. 

One of the program’s greatest successes is the difference it makes for youth seeking a dependable support network. Many have expressed their gratitude for the program’s impact on various aspects of their lives.  

Introducing Youth Night Participants & Mentors

Joëlle helping a team mate on the court

Upon immigrating to Canada, Joëlle Mukadi found a sense of belonging through basketball, where Will and the program welcomed him into a new community. Now serving as a support coach, he aspires to expand the program, aiming to extend the same support and mentorship to more youth.

“Basketball taught me more than just a game. It could be as simple as having shooting issues, and still teaches so much. I learned to be more patient and more disciplined. I think basketball teaches you to listen more, listen to your parents. Will’s been like a brother, guiding me through challenges and helping me stay positive. His support goes beyond the court.

Basketball really teaches you to grow as a person. You understand that life is not just about winning, but also losing. You learn to lose, to work really hard, and to walk away from bad situations.”Joëlle

Then & Now: Jeremy pictured at 9 years old and today.
IMG_0094 (1)

Jeremy Strohmenger first crossed paths with Will at the age of 9 when he joined a youth sports program under Will’s leadership. Despite being one of the youngest, Jeremy felt valued as a team player. Over the years, he has noticed progress and improvement in himself,  and is grateful for the encouragement he receives. Jeremy looks forward to the Youth Program every Friday, where he continues to strive for improvement every week. 

“Basketball isn’t just a sport; it’s inspiration, it’s unity—it’s in your heart. The program helps me stay focused, and Will has taught me to reach for my fullest potential. He pushes me through everything and I look up to him.” -Jeremy

Jacob Wong attending Youth Night

“Youth Night at Overbrook is a great program. I get to meet new people. I really enjoy having the space to play. I have improved a lot of skills through basketball. It has been a great confidence builder.”Jacob 

A Dream to Expand Across Ottawa Communities

Throughout the program, Will has witnessed the remarkable personal growth, improvement, and dedication of many kids. It has been amazing to welcome participants who return weekly, eager to build their skills. The current program can accommodate 25 youth arriving at a time. However, with limited gym availability, it can become challenging to take in a high volume of kids who walk through the gym doors ready to play, and Will’s greatest disappointment is to have to turn them away. 

Youth Night has also attracted youth from neighbouring communities, many of whom travel long distances to access the program. Looking ahead, Will hopes to expand to other community centres and gyms across the city to create more opportunities for young people. Program growth has had challenges related to funding and resources, but Will does not plan on quitting. He has faith that with increased community awareness and support, the program’s expansion can become a reality to empower more youth

At Youth Ottawa, we believe in investing in programs like Will’s to engage transformative action to better our communities. Despite their significant impact, grassroots initiatives often go unnoticed due to limited advocacy resources. While it only takes one person’s dedication to initiate something special, it requires the collective effort of the community to grow and nurture its full potential. To learn more and explore ways you can support, contact Will Davenport by clicking the link below. 

2024 Mayor for a Day Contest

2024 Mayor for a Day Contest

Applications Now Closed

We’re back with our second Mayor for a Day contest! If you’re a high school student in grades 9-12, and reside in Ottawa you can apply for the chance to spend a day in Mayor Mark Sutcliffe’s shoes.

What is the Mayor for a Day Contest?

The Mayor for a Day contest is a unique and exciting opportunity to engage local youth from around the city on municipal politics and civic issues. Ottawa high school students in Grades 9 to 12 are invited to apply by outlining their vision for Ottawa over the next 50 years, for their chance to experience a day with Mayor Mark Sutcliffe! The winners will have the opportunity to experience a day in the life of the mayor, attend scheduled events for the day, and share their ideas and perspectives for how to improve our city.  Students chosen this year will spend the day with the mayor on May 9th. 

The Mayor for a Day contest is organized by the Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee (OYEC) in partnership with the City of Ottawa and Mayor Sutcliffe’s office, as a way to promote youth engagement on municipal politics and civic issues.

What to expect: A 2023 Recap

Last year students Anya Watson and Shanaz Sabir shadowed mayor Mark Sutcliffe during his inaugural year in office for an incredibly eventful day.  They were able to gain valuable insight about life in municipal government,  they attended a flag raising ceremony for Poland’s Constitution Day, the opening of the Rochester Heights Community House, and learned more about City Hall and the responsibilities of local leadership. 


“Opportunities like being mayor for the day are truly incredible. My time as mayor was an amazing experience, from being a part of the Rochester Heights Community Home opening to the incredible experience touring city hall! I recommend for youth to sign up or apply whenever they can for experiences … that create lifelong memories” – Shanaz Sabir

Meeting Mayor Sutcliffe was a fantastic and unforgettable experience! Shanaz and I were able to experience a day in the hustle of a mayor’s life and it showed us just how hard—although rewarding—the work of a city leader is. Mayor Sutcliffe’s team was so kind and I am very thankful for having met them … This event was a great learning opportunity and a marvelous outing!” – Anya Watson

Students Shanaz Shabir & Anya Watson with Mayor Mark Sutcliffe.

Applications are now closed.

Leading the Way: Exploring Ottawa Organizations Empowering Black Youth

Leading the Way

Exploring Ottawa Organizations Empowering Black Youth

This month, we’re spotlighting a part of the vibrant network of organizations in Ottawa  dedicated to supporting and empowering black youth. These committed groups provide invaluable resources spanning education, entrepreneurial guidance, leadership development, mentorship, community connections, access to black history materials, and advocacy for anti-racism initiatives. We invite you to click on each title to  learn  more about these impactful organizations through their websites, and spread the word!

The Michaëlle Jean Foundation is a national charitable organization that supports youth-led mobilization towards inclusion and social justice. Established in 2010, and born out of the support for youth, arts and culture provided by the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, with the help of her husband, philosopher and writer, Jean-Daniel Lafond.  It uses a unique intervention model, based on the power of the arts, dialogue, innovation, education, creative and social entrepreneurship, to help young Canadians across the country who have been struck by exclusion. The Foundation offers a rich variety of engagement opportunities for youth, including the Power of Youth grant program and the Creative Youth Entrepreneurship Program. Explore these powerful initiatives here. 

The Chnge Mker Innovation Hub equips and empowers Black entrepreneurs with the business strategy and mindset skills they need to launch and grow the business of their dreams. For over thirteen years, founder Mona Abow worked with marginalized groups in the career development space in Ottawa. This ignited her passion to bring together an empowered community of business owners, mentors, and advisors – who share the same vision.

In 2023 Mona and her team launched The Chnge Mker Innovation Hub, the first entrepreneurship space and program in Ottawa  that centers around the identity of Black entrepreneurs. The Change Mkers Innovation Hub provides an innovative space for connection and networking, personalized business strategy, mental health support, mindset mastery and start-up training workshops for Black entrepreneurs. Click here to explore the business incubation program and join the next cohort for free. 

The People of Tomorrow is a youth led organization founded in 2020 by Benazir Tom Erdimi, a university of Ottawa student in her 3rd year of conflict studies and Human Rights. It was born out of a collective desire to create a positive and empowering space that highlights the achievements and potential of the black community beyond the lens of racism and police brutality. Inspired by the global Black Lives Matter movement, TPOT aims to provide a platform where black individuals could showcase their hard work and contributions across diverse fields such as education, social justice, art, science, innovations, and photography. The TPOT mission has since expanded and evolved into a non-profit organization focused on  connection,  celebration, empowerment, and resource allocation for the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community. Learn more about their work. 

The Right Honorable Michaëlle Jean speaking with youth.
Benazir Tom Erdimi: Founder of The People of Tomorrow

Established in 2019, Leading Ladies Canada is a non-profit organization created and led  by black women. Their mission is to empower black women, youth, and children by providing them with the tools and resources necessary for personal and professional growth, fostering an environment where they are helping to build the next generation of leading ladies. They offer a variety of programs including an education program featuring webinars on leadership, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, healthcare, and relationships, as well as, a Community Outreach Program focused on addressing the needs of black communities in the Ottawa-Carleton region. Get involved and discover more about their important community work by exploring their latest events.

Established in 1985, Black History Ottawa is a volunteer-driven non-profit deeply embedded in the community. Collaborating with public institutions and community groups, its mission is to raise awareness of the rich history, culture, and contributions of Canadians of African descent to Ottawa and Canada. The organization promotes and supports research in African history, aiming to establish a reliable source of information and correct historical distortions. Special attention is given to inspiring youth to value their heritage and pursue leadership roles. Black History Ottawa conducts year-round programming, with a focus on promoting and celebrating African heritage in February for Black History Month. Learn more about volunteering and membership here. 

Jaku Konbit supports individuals and families of African and Caribbean descent, alongside other equity-deserving individuals, through community partnerships and programming, fostering economic and civic participation in Canadian society. They deliver high-quality youth, elder, and community programs that celebrate African heritage. They provide a number of programs dedicated to youth interests and development including, a provincial youth outreach worker program, a black youth entrepreneurship and innovation program, tutoring services, and a dedicated mentorship program specifically supported to focus on the empowerment of  black youth. Curious about becoming a mentor? Learn more about youth mentorship initiatives here.

We express our sincere thanks to these and countless other remarkable organizations in Ottawa who share in our commitment to empower the next generation of leaders and change makers. Together we can amplify the meaningful contributions of all those who are dedicated to forging a more equitable and promising future for youth in Ottawa and beyond. 

Keeping up with Entrepreneurship: Q&A with Wendley Pierre

Keeping up with Youth Entrepreneurship

Q & A With Wendley Pierre

Remember Wendley? He’s the senior photographer at Hot Shoe Productions, who with a team of talented young business leaders continues to grow a remarkable youth-led social enterprise. 2023 was a busy year for him!  He has taken on new professional experiences, developed creative projects, inspired in classrooms, and celebrated Hot Shoe Productions taking home a Best Ottawa Business Award this past November.

We recently chatted with Wendley as he took us behind the lens of his experience and offered insights into his life as a young entrepreneur.

Q1. Could you introduce yourself and describe your role at Hot Shoe Productions?

My name is Wendley. I am the Lead Photographer at Hot Shoe Productions. I’ve worked with Hot Shoe for about 2 years now. I take photos of clients and events, and I also direct specific client projects, facilitate filmmaking programs in classrooms, and manage Hot Shoe’s social media.

Q2. How did you discover your passion for photography?

 High school gave me the foundation to develop my passion for photography. I took a grade 11 photography class at Immaculata High School. I started out with an ipad in the classroom, practiced, and relayed photos to the teacher. I eventually developed an understanding of subject placement, an awareness of stopping and looking around and figuring out what is interesting about what I’m seeing, because being a photographer is about so much more than just being behind a camera. I discovered my love for street photography and photographers who inspired me, like Steven Shore, and eventually I defined my own style. 

Q3. What inspired you to get involved with Hot Shoe Productions and Entrepreneurship in the first place?

I was working for a fast food restaurant before getting involved with Hot Shoe. The opportunities for me I felt only went to a certain point..I could become the supervisor, manager, but it was a job to me and not my passion. I had been looking for some freelance opportunities in photography for awhile, and I was introduced to Ben Bergeron, the creative director at Hot Shoe through Jesse Card, at a creators hub event Youth Ottawa was hosting.  

Q4. What are some recent projects you have completed? What are you currently working on?

I  have focused on video directing with a few of my more recent projects. I directed a promotional debut video for a consulting firm called The Novas Group. It’s a brand development firm led by young creatives here in Ottawa. It was fun to shoot! I think we were successful at capturing them as a business, by bringing in elements of corporate strategy videos while also maintaining a youthful vibe. 

I debuted as a director with a video project for Unsinkable, an organization that focuses on youth mental health.

 I am really excited about a course curriculum I am developing with a grant from the Social Planning Council of Ottawa. It’s a photography fundamentals mentorship program specific to youth that I will be facilitating with other members of the Hot Shoe team. 

I am also in the middle of a project working to help connect the larger community to local artists and creatives. I think there is so much talent in Ottawa, great things people are working on, and they need to be shared.

Q5. Can you describe a memorable moment where you witnessed the positive effects of entrepreneurship through your work at Hot Shoe Productions?

Entrepreneurship shows how the things you do can have a big impact. I think of the things we’ve done for the community. I feel like the Youth Active Media program with Hot Shoe has a lasting impact on kids and they are going to remember it. I remember in one class, we were doing script writing and a kid was very distracted because he didn’t resonate with it, so I pulled out a camera and taught him ways to use it. I remember he was very excited and so I challenged him to shoot a short film on his phone and have it done the next day. The next day he came back and completed the challenge. I realized that he had used a lot of the techniques he learned  and he remembered all of it. It makes you happy to see growth and success inspired by something you did. 

Teaching the Youth Active Media Program at Frederick Banting Alternative High School.
Wendley pictured with colleague Vanna Noun from Hot Shoe & Mr. Olson from Hillcrest High school

Q6. What is your favorite thing about working at Hot Shoe Productions?

The people. Creatives are the best people to be around. Being surrounded by my peers, Vanna, Colin, and Ben who are strong advocates for creating opportunities for youth to get into the industry. My relationships at Hot Shoe have inspired me to mentor other young people. I remember wishing we could open up a photography school and teach kids photography. And now we are doing it. I reflect on it as a full circle moment. 

Q7. What skills or knowledge have you gained through your experience at Hot Shoe Productions that you believe are valuable as an entrepreneur?

Everyday at Hot Shoe teaches me about business, I’ve developed many skills, even though I do not have a background in business. I’ve also developed a lot of networking skills and learned how to be more formal in my correspondence with clients, especially through email thanks to Ben.

Hot Shoe Productions accepting the award for Best Performance in Social Entrepreneurship at the BEST OTTAWA BUSINESS AWARDS

Q8. If you could offer one piece of advice to young people interested in entrepreneurship, what would it be?

Be patient with yourself. There are so many learning curves but success comes, and while you’re waiting for it it’s important to reflect on where you came from, and how far you’ve come.

Q9. What is one of your greatest achievements to date?

Being able to connect with the people in my city and learning about what they do, why they do it, and why they care so much for it, why is there an attachment, inspiration or purpose? It has been inspiring to see people come together creatively and be able to find their community, and their people. I think the best way people connect is by helping each other, and it’s been great to see that and be a part of it in the creative community.

Q10. What is one of your biggest lessons learned from your entrepreneurial journey so far?

Help us support Youth Entrepreneurs.

Join us for our 2023 Annual General Meeting

Join us for our 2023 Annual General Meeting

Youth Ottawa’s Annual General Meeting will held on December 12th, 2023 from 6-8 PM at 90 Spark Street on the 2nd floor. 
Want to hear about what we accomplished in 2023 and where we’re headed this year? Share some thoughts or feedback? Join us! Public and open to all.
If you would like to attend or be added to the speakers list please email to RSVP. Please RSVP before December 6th at 5PM.

Empowering Tomorrow: How do we Support Youth Entrepreneurship?

Empower Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs

This Giving Tuesday, help us empower Ottawa’s future. Donate today to help support youth entrepreneurship programs.

Throughout this month, Youth Ottawa has been dedicated to showcasing the transformative influence of youth entrepreneurship in action. We have taken a dive into the problems and challenges faced by aspiring young entrepreneurs and have told the story of thriving young business leaders in Ottawa working for the community.  We have seen that entrepreneurship has a powerful role in driving economic growth, fostering innovative solutions, and positively impacting the empowerment of young individuals. For the past 25 years, we have been committed to supporting the youth in our city, providing opportunities for them to learn and grow through hands-on experience and experiential learning.

Empowering Tomorrow

How do we Support Youth Entrepreneurship?

This Giving Tuesday, you are invited to explore the programs we deliver to support our future entrepreneurs. These initiatives are designed to equip youth with the knowledge and experience necessary to enhance their leadership, confidence, and entrepreneurial skills. Join us by supporting our programs and empower youth to achieve success. Keep reading to jump into our organization’s vision to support young entrepreneurs in creating a better tomorrow.

Guiding the next generation: The power of mentorship in youth entrepreneurship.

Mentorship is an important part of helping young entrepreneurs achieve their goals. Successful individuals often have a network of experience they can look to for advice and guidance. Youth have great ideas but often lack the infrastructure to mobilize their dreams into reality. Mentorship offers youth hands-on involvement, helps navigate challenges faced by entrepreneurs, and transfers experiential-based knowledge and essential skills needed to build a strong foundation for success. It is an essential element in fostering growth and building connections.

 At Youth Ottawa, we stand behind the value of mentorship, and tailor our entrepreneur focused programs to deliver business development training and provide access to seasoned entrepreneurs. Additionally, by enhancing networking opportunities youth can communicate, connect, and collaborate with individuals sharing the same passions, interests, and goals.  By fostering connections, we empower youth to engage and collaborate with like-minded individuals, amplifying their potential for growth and success.

Our Programs Help Build Entrepreneurs

We are excited for the future of our ambitious young business community but understand that dreams and great ideas need support. To respond to this growing need, we developed two engaging programs, the Summer Amplified Fellowship, and the Social Enterprise Program. These two programs are designed with leadership and entrepreneurship in mind.


What is the Summer
Amplified Fellowship?

In 2019, the passion of youth entrepreneurs inspired us to launch the Summer Amplified Fellowship. This program is designed to amplify the entrepreneurial projects of youth by offering business development training, mentorship, and networking. We hire youth to work for themselves for 8 weeks during the summer. They have the opportunity to grow their ideas into sustainable enterprises and develop their entrepreneurial experience. The program covers several topics of business development such as Human- Centered Design, Business Design Thinking, Empathy Mapping, Building Customer Personas, funding paths, grant writing, partnership acquisition, networking and public speaking, impact Reporting, Branding, Marketing and Sales. Youth can support one another and learn together uniquely. 

About the Social
Enterprise Program

The Social Enterprise Program (SEP) allows students to explore career interests through social enterprise development. By activating a combination of innovation, collaboration and global awareness and drawing on their pre-existing academic skills students are asked to innovate and solve challenges presented by community organizations. Employing diverse and experienced young social entrepreneurs from Youth Ottawa’s Amplified Fellowship, the SEP adopts a “for-youth-by-youth” model where students are mentored by role models who already have experience with social enterprise development. The program bridges the gap between the classroom and community outreach  and allows students to explore socially minded business practices and the positive impacts they can achieve.

Program Impact

Many success stories have made their way through our programs and we could not be more excited to continue growing to include more youth! Most recently, Drayton Mulindabigwi Jabo, a Fellow from our 2022 Summer Amplified Cohort, launched The Novas Group, a consulting firm focused on brand development. As an accomplished business leader, he recently took home The Youth Immigrant Entrepreneur Award 2023 from TiE Ottawa.

Drayton Mulindabigwi Jabo accepting his TiE Award.

This month, Hot Shoe Productions, a youth-led film production company that began with the support of Youth Ottawa in 2018, won Best Performance in Social Entrepreneurship at the Best Ottawa Business Awards hosted by the Ottawa Business Journal. 

The Hot Shoe Productions Team at the Best Ottawa Business Awards.

These young change-makers have already come so far, and it’s only the beginning! Providing opportunities that support entrepreneurship makes a difference in our community, it can give youth the boost they need to spearhead great successes in the future.  This Giving Tuesday, help us support youth with their entrepreneurial goals, so they can continue to build a better tomorrow.  

Our Hope for the Future: How can you support?

Each contribution you make this Giving Tuesday will go directly to the cost of operatating our SEP (Social Enterprise Program) in the community and expanding the program for March Break next year. We will also use the funds raised to expand our Summer Amplified Fellowship program to increase the amount of youth who can access the program. Last summer the program saw two youth participate and continue to build their social enterprises with the help of Youth Ottawa. We would like to add more participants this summer and build back to our pre-Covid numbers. 

Let’s take a peek at how your support can bring these programs to life:

1.In the Classroom: An Incubator for Social Enterprise

Our journey starts in the classroom, where the seed of social entrepreneurship is planted. For just $2,000 per classroom, we can introduce students to the world of business with a social conscience. 

2.Community- Based Learning: Nurturing Dreams in Shared Spaces

Beyond the school walls, our community-based program brings entrepreneurship into local neighbourhoods. It takes $1,500 to set this stage, plus an additional $250 for each youth who joins.

3.Summer Amplified Fellowship: A Journey of Self-Discovery

During the SAF program, young entrepreneurs are not just learning, they’re earning. At $6,800 per participant, this program is an investment in their future. For 8 weeks, youth work for themselves, turning their ideas into reality.  

The Impact of Your Support - Donate Today!

Youth entrepreneurs are a powerful force ready to create a better future filled with economic prosperity, innovation, bright ideas, and socially conscious business ventures. Our exploration of the entrepreneurial pathway for youth shows us that positive change is never easy.  It is our responsibility to guide the builders of tomorrow to help them become the visionary leaders we know they can be. The youth of our city have the drive, potential, creativity, and work ethic needed for success. Support our programs this Giving Tuesday and help us provide opportunities, so that young entrepreneurs can achieve their success stories. Let’s continue to empower, educate, and elevate these young minds together. 

 Entrepreneurial Spotlight: Lights, Camera, Action with Hot Shoe Productions.

This month, we invite you to get to know the power and promise that young entrepreneurs bring to our beautiful city of Ottawa. In our
latest blog we explored the positive impact  young entrepreneurs have and the challenges they face,  in need of support to build a better future. Now, it’s time to take a closer look at youth in action. Read on ahead to discover the success story of a young social enterprise making things happen! 

Lights, Camera,Youth in Action

Hot Shoe Productions & the Power of Youth Entrepreneurship.

Welcome to the dynamic world of Hot Shoe Productions, a social enterprise launched with the support of Youth Ottawa, where the fusion of dedication, talent, and drive ignites a unique spark. Picture this: a highly successful video and photography company, entirely shaped by the passion and creativity of our youth. What began as a pilot program in 2015 to expand youth talent and skills in videography, has since-rebranded and transformed to become a successful video and photography business.
Inspired by the people of this city, this social enterprise tells community stories through a completely youth-led lens. 

A Snapshot of Hot Shoe History

It has always been challenging for a traditional model of education to suit the learning styles and interests of all  to prepare students for future career opportunities. Many creative steps forward have been taken by the education sector in identifying diverse ways in which students can be actively engaged in the classroom. In 2015, our team at Youth Ottawa stepped up to the plate and launched our Youth Active Media Program. The program was developed to teach youth digital literacy skills through the art of filmmaking. By offering training, equipment, and a hands-on learning approach, students are encouraged to create independent projects about community issues that matter to them. The program was first launched with the support of the Trillium Foundation and later a partnership formed with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, it continues in classrooms today. 

The success of the Youth Active Media program found a new pathway to support youth in 2017, when in partnership, The Social Planning Council and Youth Ottawa proposed to advance the established videography program into a social enterprise, with the help of a grant awarded to them by the Ottawa Community Foundation. With the support of nonprofits and the community, Hot Shoe Productions was born in June of 2018. Now, young people that have completed  the Youth Active Media program, have the chance to continue a career in working to build and progress a sustainable business. Since its humble beginnings, Hot Shoe has grown to new heights, and has expanded its business, support for youth, and community reach  in unimaginable ways. 

Screen Shot 2023-11-14 at 8.34.56 PM

Entrepreneurs at work: Hot Shoe Today

Today, Hot Shoe Productions continues to deliver their high quality professional services to a variety of notable clients, including RBC, The United Way of East Ontario, and Shopify. Diving into proposals big and small, Hot Shoe treats every project as a work of art, tailoring a vibrant narrative to encompass the client’s story by adding the zest of youth innovation. Throughout their years of experience they have learned to become better business leaders and continue to be youth led in all aspects of their enterprise.

Being an impactful community focused business is at the heart of Hot Shoe Productions and drives their entrepreneurial vision forward. Through the enterprise, Hot Shoe has produced creative projects aimed at informing the community about the wonderful non-profit work in the city. They have worked on projects for organizations like JA (Junior Achievement) Ottawa, which works to deliver hands-on learning experiences in the area of entrepreneurship, Causeway Work Centre, a non-profit organization that helps individuals with mental illness and other challenges find meaningful work, and the Innovators and Entrepreneurs Foundation, a charity that supports Canadian entrepreneurs from racialized and equity deserving communities. 

Hot Shoe has continued to mobilize their team to lead mentorship in schools through the ongoing delivery of the Youth Active Media Program in partnership with the OCDSB. The team members are passionate about teaching the program that gave many of them their start in the industry. Leading by example, they allow students to see that young people can achieve amazing things with their talents, hard work, and confidence. They have also worked on organizing and delivering film camps to students of younger demographics, most recently working with the Kanata Montessori School, to help youth discover the power of creative expression.

One of the most important aspects of their business is the passion for supporting and working with other young creatives and business leaders in the Ottawa community. They work collectively toward fostering and empowering the next generation of thought leaders and the new ventures they bring to the entrepreneurial tapestry of Ottawa. Most recently, they created a promotional launch video for the Novas Group,a youth led, one-stop shop brand development company that specializes in design, consulting, and media.

Learn more about Hot Shoe’s entrepreneurial experience:

Meet the Young Social Entrepreneurs behind Hot Shoe Productions

Ben Bergeron (he/him), Creative Director

“My favorite thing about working at Hot Shoe Productions is the valuable mentorship I am able to provide to a diverse population of young people. Through the program, I have been able to support the passion and careers of dozens of youth with an interest in the media industry, all while amplifying the valuable work of businesses and nonprofits throughout the city.”

Bryanna Kearney (she/her), Post Production Supervisor

“The thing I like most about working at Hot Shoe is being able to do something I enjoy as a career. I am also really thankful for all the great people I have had a chance to work with and learn from.

My favorite thing about being an entrepreneur is being able to decide how I want my career to look. I like being able to decide the kind of work that I do, and the way that I want to do it.”

Wendley Pierre (he/him), Senior Photographer & Social Media Manager.

“Working at Hot Shoe has helped me build a strong business background. I get to focus on what I am passionate about and grow my own brand -Through my Lens.

I have the opportunity to do what I love. It’s different from clocking in at the restaurant loading up to do something vs. loving what you do.”

Colin Ziraldo (he/him), Lead Cinematographer & Technical Producer

“The most rewarding aspect of Hot Shoe Productions is the incredible company culture we’ve fostered. The teams are immensely passionate and skilled individuals, and collaborating with them daily is a genuine pleasure. I strongly believe that Hot Shoe Productions plays a pivotal role in nurturing the next generation of filmmakers, photographers, and video producers.”

The Exceptional Team also Includes:

Somya Goomer (she/her), Audio Engineer
Justin Scriver (they/them), Post Production Supervisor
Vanna Noun (he/him), Community Outreach Coordinator & Lead Videographer

Join Us in Empowering Young Entrepreneurs this Giving Tuesday

With successful organizations like Hot Shoe Productions, it’s clear why supporting young entrepreneurs is vital. This team, started by Youth Ottawa, showcases what young talent can achieve with the right support. They’ve not only built a successful business but also inspired their peers in Ottawa and beyond. 

This Giving Tuesday, we invite you to support youth entrepreneurs in two impactful ways:

First, consider contributing to our Giving Tuesday campaign. Your financial support will empower programs like Youth Active Media, which has been instrumental in the growth of initiatives like Hot Shoe Productions. Your donation helps provide resources, training and opportunities to more young entrepreneurs fostering innovation and creativity. 

Secondly, you have a unique opportunity to support Hot Shoe Productions directly. By hiring them for your videography needs, you’re not just getting high-quality services, you’re also providing real-world experiences and growth opportunities for talented young creators. Every project they undertake not only showcases their skills but also furthers their professional developments. 

This Giving Tuesday, let’s stand behind young entrepreneurs. Whether through a donation to our campaign or by engaging Hot Shoe for your next project, your support can make a big impact. Together, we can fuel the passion and potential of entrepreneurs, one project at a time.

Help us Support Young Entrepreneurs.

Empowering Tomorrow’s Innovators: Understanding the Landscape of Youth Entrepreneurship

Empowering Tomorrow’s Innovators

Understanding the Landscape of Youth Entrepreneurship

Do you remember setting up your first lemonade stand? Or the time you and your friend made crafts to sell to friends and family? Maybe you even had the brilliant idea to create hand drawn signs to eagerly offer services like dog walking, shoveling snow, and mowing the lawns in your neighborhood. 

These childhood ventures are more than just fond memories–they are the seeds of entrepreneurship. They demonstrate the raw potential for innovation that we at Youth Ottawa are passionate about cultivating in today’s youth.

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Taking the entrepreneurial leap allows people to merge  passions and interests with  work. According to a 2023 RBC Small Business Poll, a
growing number of Canadians are turning to entrepreneurship to pursue this career lifestyle. This trend includes young entrepreneurs as well, with 8 in 10 young Canadians aspiring to entrepreneurship to shape the career they desire, as revealed by a 2023 IPSOS poll on Canadian Entrepreneurship. A goal also on the rise among Gen Z, driven by changing attitudes towards the post-pandemic work culture and technological innovation. Yet, despite their enthusiasm and innovative ideas, young Canadians make up just 1.7% of Canada’s entrepreneurial landscape. This disparity points to a pressing issue: a vast pool of potential is being overlooked. 

The Challenges of Youth Entrepreneurship

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The economic impact of entrepreneurs is undeniable–small businesses employ a substantial portion of the workforce. According to Statistic Canada, businesses with 1-99 employees make up 98% of all employer businesses in Canada, and employ 63% of the workforce. Yet, it’s not just about numbers; it’s about the fresh energy and perspectives that young entrepreneurs bring to the table. Their unique outlook and innovative approaches will inherit and transform the small business sector and job creation. 

However, the path for these aspiring young business owners is filled with challenges. Young people today face balancing education and work in a world marked by rising inflation rates and stagnant wages. They carry more debt and have limited financial support, which hinders their ability to pursue entrepreneurial dreams.

According to an RBC Economic report (2018), 80% of young business owners relied on donations and gifts to sustain their businesses. 

While it is true that Gen Z is ready to harness technological revolutions pioneered by previous generations to shape our economic future, being tech-savvy is just one part of the equation. Growing businesses today have many benefits thanks to tech advancements in AI, social media, data analytics, and e-commerce. Nevertheless, to truly empower entrepreneurship, youth need support in utilizing these new technologies for sustainable business, particularly in social enterprises. The United Nations’ recent report on Youth Social Entrepreneurship emphasizes the importance of aiding young people in identifying, adopting, and commercializing technologies for career growth. Taking full advantage of higher levels of youth engagement in the digital space requires that young people have support in adapting new technologies to business development.

Youth Belong in Entrepreneurial Spaces

The People of Tomorrow founder, Sallysha Vital leading a presentation during our Summer Amplified Program 2023

We believe in the transformative power of young entrepreneurs to create a lasting impact. We see it in the success stories from our community, where young individuals are leading the charge and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in business. Young entrepreneurs like Mallorie Bordie & Lauren Lake, founders of Bridgit, a successfully innovative Canadian construction company, and Kerin John, founder of Black Owned Toronto, are a testament to what youth are capable of. In our city of Ottawa, youth enterprises like Hot Shoe Productions, a youth-led media production company and the Novas Group, a venture creation firm, are pushing the boundaries of entrepreneurship and are here to succeed. It is our responsibility as a community to support youth to empower the future.

Hot Shoe Production team members

Join us in Supporting Young Innovators

Youth Entrepreneurs need support to build the future. We understand this need deeply and are committed to providing young entrepreneurs with the help they need to overcome barriers, through mentorship, resources, and a community that believes in their potential.

Our mission is to transform the 1.7% into a figure that truly reflects the capabilities and aspirations of Canada’s youth

A large part of encouraging innovation is to create an environment that fosters experiential learning to support current educational practices. At Youth Ottawa our programs focus on the importance of marrying technological know-how with sustainable business practices. Our aim is to guide young entrepreneurs towards creating ventures that are not only profitable but also beneficial to society. 

With the giving season around the corner, we’re highlighting the importance of investing in the entrepreneurial spirit of our youth. By subscribing to our updates, you’ll get to follow the story of how we helped kick start a youth-led social enterprise and see the impact of what youth entrepreneurship can bring to our community. 

Together, let’s empower young entrepreneurs to turn lemons into lemonade!

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Key Conversations: Youth and Adults Unite to Address Youth Mental Health, Addictions, and Substance Use Care in the Community


Key Conversations

Youth and Adults Unite to Address Youth Mental Health, Addictions, and Substance Use Care in the Community

Youth Ottawa and the Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee recently partnered alongside multiple community organizations to learn more about Youth Mental health. United Way East Ontario, Ottawa Public Health, CHEO’s YouthNet/RéseauAdo, Ottawa Youth and Child Initiative, and Project Step all came together with youth voices from the city of Ottawa at the Rideau Community Hub, for a conversation focused on Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Health.

Why Mental Health Matters

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health expresses the need for these collaborative efforts. According to CIHC research  mental health disorders affect 20% of children and youth in Canada. Notably, statistics from 2020 demonstrated that one in four hospitalizations among youth aged 5-24 were linked to mental health conditions.

Research affirms that Youth Mental Health needs attention in our city. Key findings from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey 2021 by Ottawa Public Health demonstrate that 2 in 5 Ottawa students in grades 7-12 reported poor or fair mental health (44%). As well as some wanting to talk to someone but not knowing where to turn (42%). The shared commitment to enhance mental health and substance use health services resonates with these facts and remains a top priority for youth and key stakeholders in Ottawa.

It Takes Community

It began with presentations by adult and youth community leaders, each of whom brought unique experiences and insights to the conversation.

Daniel Bersyniow, a member of OYEC and a Health Science student at the University of Ottawa, elaborated on the importance of embracing creativity and thinking outside the box to empower sustainable solutions. Harpreet Grewal, representing Ottawa Public Health, shared invaluable data from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). Additionally, Iman Shamraiz, a psychology student at the University Ottawa and youth representative of YouthNet’s Youth Advisory Committee, provided insights into common adult perceptions regarding youth mental health.

Daniel Bersyniow
Harpreet Grewal
Iman Shamraiz

Smaller group discussions guided by thought-provoking questions took place throughout the evening. All groups focused on gaining a collective understanding through shared knowledge and expressed opinions. The discussion topics included, exploring the definition of wellness,  getting to know support and resources, terminology, envisioned outcomes, and incorporating personal or professional experiences. Each group recorded their answers, and later, all attendees reconvened in open discussion to share their group’s takeaways.

Emerging Conversations

1. The de-stigmatization of Mental Health. 

2.The identification of gaps in mental health and substance use services in Ottawa.

3. Addressing wait-times and opportunities for youth- to- adult healthcare transitions.

4. Implementing collaborative structures within organizations that support inter-provider  communication.

5. Addressing the challenges faced by youth residing in remote areas.

6. Examining mental health equity.

7. The importance of youth and family engagement.

8. Improved workplace training.

9. Learning about mental health resources available to youth in Ottawa.

10. Exploring how patient needs can be addressed by first contact to counter critical mental health emergencies. 

Photos by Wendley Pierre- Hotshoe Productions

Moving Forward: Transforming Words into Actions

Partners were able to acknowledge the commendable efforts of numerous Ottawa youth and organizations dedicated to reshaping the landscape of Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Health. A comprehensive summary report will be prepared and shared with all participants and partner organizations. The insights gained from this event will play an important  role in guiding actionable steps toward improving the mental health and substance use well-being of Ottawa’s youth.

This continuous dialogue underlines the unwavering dedication of the community to empower Ottawa’s youth and lay the foundation for a brighter and healthier future for the next generation.

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