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Improving Digital Literacy for Future Success

Behind the Scenes of Building an Online Community

Among the many difficulties of the digital age, education and finding an online community are two that are perhaps the most noticeable in our classrooms and in our youth nowadays. Youth Ottawa has been making strides to ensure no one is left behind in the past.

Our Youth Active Media program provides teachers with access to digital platforms and online resources to help teach them and their students how to navigate remote learning, especially in a post-COVID-19 learning environment.

Since 2018, we have implemented 47 YAM classes, training over 700 students along the way.

In addition, we have welcomed new members to our team to ensure we are keeping up with the needs of our youth. By empowering youth to lead other young people, we are providing young people with the tools necessary to make an impact on our community, and within their own lives. In 2021, we had 16 new part-time hires, and four new volunteers.

Among these new members are YAM-graduates Mathias Ghezzi, Byron McDonald, and Damien Hébert. In 2020, the three of them went through our Storytelling Lab project with CBC. Byron then went on to win one of our 2021 Spirit Awards for Academic Perseverance. Damien went through a similar experience, graduating from our YAM program in 2020 and moving on to work for Hot Shoe Productions, our sister media production company, as a videographer. It is a great honour for us to provide youth with whom we come into contact with employment and development opportunities. 

After their first contact with Youth Ottawa, they wanted to further their involvement. Over the past few months, they have become our “TikTok Team” – producing short videos to help amplify our efforts online, whether on TikTok or on Instagram Reels. 

“The original concept when we thought of TikTok was to make skits and comedy, then it became more community content. We’re a big city – there’s news to be spread – so when it comes to TikTok possibly changing, I don’t think it’s going anywhere soon to be honest: I see TikTok as a perfect app for that.” says Matthias

Damien describes his experience with YAM as life-changing, having never even thought about going into video production before having taken the course. Now, he is buying his own equipment and gaining confidence in his independent skills.

“I wanna have an impact to the community, and this is a great job to do that…it's gonna give me the connections in music, video, which are both things I'm extremely interested in making my future career,” explains Damien.

Through the online videos, the group hopes to amplify young artists, entrepreneurs, and changemakers. Not only is their work providing a positive influence to the community, but they are also building up professional skills in marketing. Since starting their positions, they have quickly realized how much work goes into social media management, including pre-production, scheduling, and the adaptivity required under pressure to new trends. This new-found knowledge will surely open up future employment opportunities for them.

“I guess I’m still learning, I’m definitely not a marketer, I’m a young adult and don’t know what’s happening half the time but I’m always like ‘Hi I’m here – I’m ready to help” – Mathias Ghezzi

All three of them expressed a desire in finding a consistent posting schedule, as well as reaching a larger audience. As they continue on their journey, they will likely be starting off with Instagram Reels before expanding to TikTok. This way, they will be able to grow a larger community with whom they will be able to connect and relate more easily. 

“I want to work with Jesse to get more stuff going with YAM to reach more people and teach more people, that’s sort of my end-goal” – Byron McDonald