Youth Assisting Youth (YAY)

The Peer Project | Youth Assisting Youth (YAY) is a non-profit charitable organization that matches at-risk and newcomer children ages 6-15 with fully trained and dedicated Volunteer Youth Mentors ages 16-29, who act as positive role models. We create real relationships that matter by partnering kids who need support with peers who can give it; and we’ve seen this city change – one kid at a time! Mission Statement: The Peer Project - Youth Assisting Youth (YAY) is a voluntary community-based peer mentoring organization, committed to promoting the healthy growth and development of young people, strengthening families and responding to and supporting changing community needs.

The Peer Project YAY Annual Summer Camp 2014Our Impact Why We Exist

For 38 years The Peer Project | Youth Assisting Youth (YAY) has helped youth throughout Toronto change their communities and their lives – one kid at a time. We know that real change comes through real relationships – which is why Peer Mentoring between youth is so important. We have a 98% success rate of keeping our kids healthy, in school and on the positive path to success. We are the experts in facilitating high-quality, high-impact Youth Mentoring programs, both in a group setting and on a One-to-One, Youth-to-Youth basis.

We're extremely passionate about mentoring and dedicated to creating a positive impact on our youth clients (mentees) and their families, as well as our amazing volunteer youth (mentors). Through participation in our One-to-One Peer Mentoring and Group Mentoring Programs, mentors and mentees benefit from increased resiliency, confidence and skills that help them succeed in school and manage the various pressures in their daily lives. Our programs challenge youth to become leaders and helps them to improve both academically and socially. Our programs empower youth to make smart decisions towards healthier lifestyle choices and improves family and community connections. Our One-to-One Peer Mentoring is now evidence-informed and proven to build resiliency in our youth mentees.

Our Story What We Do

The Peer Project | Youth Assisting Youth (YAY) is a registered youth charity that provides one-to-one and group mentoring programs and services to troubled kids across Toronto and York Region. We've been around for 38 years and have helped thousands of youth and their families by facilitating relationships and programs that build resiliency, confidence, academic success and social skills.

Not your average mentoring program

YAY is not your average mentoring program. Here are several things that make YAY unique from other Mentoring programs in our region:

  1. YAY accepts referrals of youth that have been clinically diagnosed with Mental Health related issues and Learning Challenges.
  2. YAY’s program matches “Youth to Youth”, leading to a deeper, more transformative impact.
  3. YAY provides 24/7 emergency ongoing support for our Mentors, Mentees and families.
  4. YAY provides free Group Mentoring Program activities and events to support our mentor matches, as well as the youth on our waiting list.
  5. YAY fully screens and trains all of our volunteer Youth Mentors, as well as proving ongoing, additional training opportunities, our annual scholarship program and ongoing support.
  6. YAY conducts in-depth Home Assessments for every volunteer mentor, mentee and family in our program.
  7. YAY provides professional mentors to our volunteer youth mentors through our Tri-Mentoring program.

History of Organization

In 1976, in response to rising incidences of juvenile crime, a committee of concerned citizens, teachers, police and social workers in Scarborough Ontario submitted a proposal the Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services.  The Scarborough proposal was approved for funding from the Ministry under the name YAY - Youth Assisting Youth. In 1992, The Federal Government Citizenship and Immigration HOST Program selected YAY to provide Newcomer Services to children and youth, allowing us to include youth who are new to Canada in our services. YAY also developed a pre-match Group Mentoring Program in conjunction with the HOST Program in 1992, to better serve the children on our waiting list.

Since its inception, YAY has grown and expanded each year, today serving all of Toronto and York Region. We have worked with at-risk youth for 38 years, helping more than 30,000 young people and families along the way.  

Accolades and Accomplishments

YAY has received several prestigious awards over the years.  Those awards include: Safe City Award from the City of Toronto (1994); Ruth Atkinson Hindmarsh Award (2001); Ministry of Citizenship Outstanding Achievement Award for Volunteerism in Ontario (2003); Dubai International Award for Best Practices (2006); and the Rotary Club International Youth Impact Award. 

We have also received a number of Volunteer Awards including The Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Volunteerism in Ontario; The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award; FLARE Magazine Volunteer Award; and the Vince Carter “Mr. Big” Volunteer Award. 

In addition to these accolades, YAY has also developed numerous strong partnerships throughout the years, including with the TDSB, TCDSB, Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police Service, ING Direct and the Jays Care Foundation. Our program is also endorsed by the Diana Princess of Wales Foundation, the National Crime Prevention Council, the Toronto Police Association, the Police Chief of York Region and the Police Chief of Toronto.

The Peer Project - Youth Assisting YouthOur Programs How We Do It

The Peer Project | Youth Assisting Youth (YAY) facilitates and supports mentoring relationships between at-risk and newcomer kids (ages of 6 and 15) and fully screened and trained volunteer youth mentors (ages of 16 and 29) who provide support, guidance and a positive role model. We match youth who need support with youth can give it (youth assisting youth), which leads to a more transformative, deeper impact. We also provide a Group Mentoring Program that includes a variety of activities and events designed to support our mentor matches, as well as the kids on our wait list. Following is a description of our programs and services:

One-to-One Peer Mentoring Program:

One-to-One Peer Mentoring is the core and foundation of what we do, matching at-risk and newcomer children, ages 6 to 15, with fully screened and trained volunteer youth mentors, ages 16 to 29. Mentors are required to spend an average of 3 hours per week with their mentee for a minimum of 1 year. Here's how it works:

  • Children (6 to 15) are referred through a variety of channels (50% from Schools)
  • Volunteer Youth Mentors (16 to 29) are recruited from Schools, Colleges/Universities, the community and work place.
  • In Home Assessments are completed for every Mentee and Mentor in the program.
  • Mentors must provide 3 references, complete a Police Background Check and Mandatory Mentor Training.
  • Once a Mentee Home Assessment is complete, our staff Social Worker begins the search for an appropriate Mentor.
  • When a potential Mentor is identified, a “Match Visit” is completed to introduce the Mentor and Mentee and establish expectations, roles and responsibilities.
  • Once a Match is established, Mentors are required to spend a minimum of 3 hours per week with their Mentee for 1 year (the average length of our mentor matches is 5 years and many last a lifetime).
  • After 3 months of a successful Match, Mentors are eligible to enroll in our Tri-Mentoring program.
  • All matched and pre-match mentees and mentors are eligible to participate in our Group Mentoring Program.

Funding and Program Partners

Core One-to-One Program funders include Federal Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration Canada, United Way of Greater Toronto, Provincial Ministry of Children and Youth Services, City of Toronto and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Program partners include Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Toronto Police Service, York Region District School Board, York Regional Police, Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, Resiliency Initiatives and the Resilience Research Centre.

Program Impact

YAY services roughly 1,200 youth per month and has helped thousands of youth and their families over our 38 year history. In 2014, we conducted a full Resiliency Evaluation of 39 of our youth mentees and are proud to say that our One-to-One program is now evidence informed and proven to build resiliency in 89% of our youth. In addition to building resilient youth, following are some additional positive outcomes of our One-to-One Peer Mentoring Program: 

  • Increased resiliency, self-confidence, knowledge, life skills and social dexterity.
  • Increased leadership abilities through positive peer interaction and mentoring.
  • Increased academic performance and engagement in healthy living and physical activities.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

The Toronto District School Board's "Student and Parent Census" for the first time included questions about students’ social and emotional wellbeing in 2012. The following 3 statistics are why peer mentoring among youth is so very important:

  • Over a third of grade 9-12 students reported that they were under a lot of stress (38%) and also reported they were nervous or anxious (34%)  “often” or “all of the time”. - Toronto Vital Signs, 2014
  • 73% of students in grades 9-12 worry about their future. - Toronto Vital Signs, 2014
  • 69% of respondents indicated that family stress contributes to their mental health challenges. - Toronto Vital Signs, 2014

Participant Vignette

"When I first met my mentor, Philippe, I was a troubled kid not doing well in school. I come from a low-income family with a single mom. One of the main obstacles I had to overcome was reading. My mom did not speak English so she couldn't teach me. Philippe helped me overcome this obstacle by coming over to my house and teaching me how to read.

The positive impact that Philippe has had on me is that he taught me to believe in myself and not let others tell me I can't dosomething. When I was in middle school, my teacher didn't think I was going to be successful in life, because I had a learning disability. Philippe took the time to help me with my homework. Because of the hard work Philippe and I put in, I'm now going to college for mechanical engineering. Philippe has helped me overcome many obstacles in life by always being there for me when I needed him and teaching me values like trust, honesty and integrity." - Charlie, Mentee

Group Mentoring Program:

Our Group Mentoring Program, was designed and implemented in 1992 in order to support our existing mentor matches, as well as providing engagement to the more than 400 at-risk kids on our waiting list for a Mentor. The program helps to reduce the financial and social strain on mentors and families by providing free, ongoing structured activities and events that build confidence, life skills and social dexterity. We are one of the only youth agencies in Toronto that provides structured activities to the clients on our waiting list. Group Mentoring consists of a wide variety of educational, arts, sports and recreational related activities and events, including our existing Vital Youth Playing for Keeps Girls Only Program, "Clicks and Stones" Cyberbullying Awareness program, "Saddle Up for Success" Therapeutic Horseback Riding program, YAY Annual Family Picnic, YAY Annual Summer Camp, trips to museums, Raptors, Maple Leafs and Argos games, fun Movie Nights, Holiday Parties and much more.

Funding and Program Partners

Group Mentoring Program funding partners include Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration Canada, Ministry of Children and Youth Services, City of Toronto, the Jays Care Foundation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, as well as various corporations and foundations. Program partners include Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Toronto Police Service, MJKO Boxing, Beat the Streets Toronto wrestling club and various other community groups and organizations.

Program Impact

In 2014 YAY's Group Mentoring Program included a total of 106 activities with more than 2,800 youth in attendance. In addition, we were able to match 169 youth from our wait list with their very own One-to-One Mentor in 2014. The outcomes and impact of our Group Mentoring Program include: 

  • Increased self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.
  • Increased leadership abilities through positive peer interaction and mentoring.
  • Increased engagement in healthy living and physical activities.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Although children and youth registration in City recreation programs continues to grow (6.9% since 2011), the percentage of youth (ages 12-19) who are inactive during leisure time has jumped to 40.5% (and Statistics Canada research shows that self-reported activity levels tend to be over-estimated). - Toronto Vital Signs, 2014

Participant Vignette

"I am writing this message to express my sincere thanks to YAY for the wonderful experiences my children have had attending the Group Mentoring Program. From Blue Jays games, to Canada's Wonderland, to Wild Water Kingdom, the YAY Family Picnic and 3 days at Camp Northern Lights, where they were able to swim in a lake, see wildlife close up, and be in the fresh air. For my children, it was all that and so much more! YAY's devoted mentors and wonderful staff have made my children's experiences truly unique. A parent knows what their kids need, and as a parent I was just heartbroken to know that my shy socially struggling son needed someone to be with him, point out the friendship opportunities and bond in such a wonderful setting. The combination of all of these group events and the excellent mentorship opportunities has really worked its magic on my kids. Thank you for providing such a wonderful opportunity for my children. With Appreciation," - Brenda, YAY Parent

Vital Youth Playing for Keeps Girls Only (GO) Program:

The Peer Project | Youth Assisting Youth’s Girls Only (GO) Program was designed as a mosaic to connect the many life threatening issues facing young women today. Issues such as bullying, health & wellness, violence, sexual relationships & teen pregnancy, substance use and abuse, can all be translated to a cry for help and a need for support. Our Girls Only Program provides participants with the opportunity to address these issues, as well as a foundation that encourages critical thinking around gender roles and stereotypes. GO provides structured activities and workshops designed specifically for girls ages 12 to 15, in a friendly and supportive environment.

Funding and Program Partners:

Our Girls Only Program is provided with funding from the Toronto Foundation's Vital Youth Playing for Keeps program, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and ParticipAction. Program partners include but are not limited to Toronto District School Board, Toronto Public Health, MJKO Boxing, Beat the Streets Toronto Wrestling Club and Loblaws - Bayview Village Cooking School.

Program Impact:

Our Girls Only Program was initially piloted in 2010 with funding from the Toronto Community Foundation's Vital Youth Program. That 2010 pilot project impacted a total of 42 girls (ages 12-15) and 6 female youth mentors (16-29), ultimately contributing to their overall health and wellness. Since then, our Girls Only Program has reached more than 230 girls and 75 female volunteers. The program has become one of our most successful group programs and is currently sustained through 2017. Our current  Playing for Keeps Girls Only program will have a positive impact on roughly 100 young girls in Toronto in 2014-15, incorporatingP4K Neighbourhood games and activities conducted within a school or community setting.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program:

“Fewer than 50% of children in a 2012 GTA study got mandated Daily Physical Activity, and none were spending recommended 20 minutes in daily moderate to vigorous physical activity.” -Toronto’s Vital Signs, 2013

Participant Vignette:

The Girls Only! Program had a really positive impact on all of the girls who participated. One girl in particular, Jenni, was significantly impacted by the program. During her first session, Jenni sat quiet and distant from the group. She appeared to be very shy, and did not make eye contact with the other girls. Slowly but surely, with each passing session, Jenni’s confidence grew. She was finally beginning to come out of her shell. While learning Cardio, Fitness and Boxing skills, Jenni really excelled and grew before our eyes. After completion of the Boxing workshop, Jenni told the instructor and other girls that she felt strong and confident. Over the next few sessions Jenni began to share and discuss her opinions with the group; and she started making new friends. When the final session of the program ended, Jenni did not want to leave the program and her new friends. She even stayed behind and helped the volunteers clean up. After the program ended, Jenni's Mother told us that she couldn’t remember the last time she saw her daughter so happy and confident. This is the powerful story of just 1 girl's experience. 

"Clicks and Stones" Cyberbullying Awareness Program (CASCAP):

Our “Clicks and Stones” Cyberbullying Awareness Program (CASCAP) was developed in 2013 in response to the growing and very important issue of cyberbullying among youth. The program uses a school and community based interactive workshop model in order to raise awareness about the issue, generate dialogue, provide skills, tips and resources, and promote internet safety to at-risk children, youth and families across Toronto. There’s no shortage of statistics and evidence relating to cyberbullying, as well as the need for a widespread, multi-agency approach to ensure the internet safety of our kids. In fact, “one in five Canadian youth report being bullied regularly” (Canadian Red Cross, 2013). The Internet makes the problem even bigger by making bullying easier and less likely to be reported. The CASCAP curriculum includes a reproducible CASCAP Awareness Poster, Parent Resource Sheet and Youth Cyber-Tip Sheet. In addition, the curriculum includes an in-depth Participant Handout, as well as a Certificate of Completion for all participants. CASCAP resources are also promoted through our new website (Spring 2015 Launch), Social Media channels and community partners.

Funding and Program Partners:

The CASCAP 2013 pilot project was funded by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services' Safer Vital Communities Fund. Our existing CASCAP program is funded by Telus and the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Program Impact:

The 2013 CASCAP pilot project was extremely successful, empowering 314 youth between the ages of 8 and 13, through the delivery of 16 CASCAP workshops in 6 Toronto District School Board Schools. Our current CASCAP expects to reach more than 1500 youth and families in Toronto and York Region by the end of 2017. Following are the outcomes of our 2013 CASCAP pilot project:

- 76% of participants in the pilot project indicated that they knew more about cyberbullying after participating in the program.

- 96% of participants indicated that they know what the following terms mean: cyberbully, target/victim, bystander, upstander

- 93% of participants agreed that they will be more aware of what they post online and text to other people

- 88% of participants felt that they knew where to go for help if they or someone they know is being bullied

Participant Vignette:

Following is some of the great feedback that we have received from CASCAP participants:

● "I know more about cyberbullying today than I did yesterday. One of my best friends in Grade 3 was cyberbullied by 2 girls in our class. It was bad and my friend didn't want to go to school anymore. But the principal and police stopped it and my friend is happier at school with me. I feel like I can help stop kids from getting bullied now. I'm an upstander. Not a bystander." - Janoya, YAY Youth

● "The most surprising or valuable thing I learned today is to be very careful what you post online because cyberbullying is illegal." - Grade 5 student, Faywood ABC Arts School

● "I liked doing the activity where they gave you 4 different sections on the paper and you have to write about what each person (bully, bystander, victim, etc.) feels because you had to think of each one in a lot of different ways." - Grade 7 student, Faywood ABC Arts School

Support The Peer Project | Youth Assisting YouthWhat You Can Do

When you give to The Peer Project | Youth Assisting Youth (YAY), you are giving hope to at-risk and newcomer children and youth by investing in their future. We currently have more than 400 troubled kids on our waiting list who are desperate for support, guidance and a positive role model. All funds donated go directly to our One-to-One and Group Mentoring programs; with official tax receipts issued for all donations greater than $20. Make a donation today and help change the life of an at-risk kid forever! Following is a brief list of our programs and the activities that donations will support.

One-to-One Peer Mentoring Program:

One-to-One Peer Mentoring is the core and foundation of what we do, matching at-risk and newcomer kids, ages 6 to 15, with fully screened & trained volunteer youth mentors, ages 16 to 29. Mentors are required to spend an average of 3 hours per week with their mentee for a minimum of 1 year. This program is extremely in-depth, including ongoing Case Management and 24/7 emergency support for all youth, families and volunteers in the program. We are proud to say that our One-to-One program is now evidence-informed and proven to build resiliency in 89% of our youth.

Activities a donation will support

Our One-to-One Peer Mentoring Program is extremely in-depth and high-impact. Donations will support the following activities:

  • Recruitment of youth volunteers (presentations to High Schools, Colleges, Universities and the workplace; intake and screening of applicants; police and reference checks; social worker home visits in volunteer's home; mentor training).
  • Intake of at-risk children and youth (database intake; screening & assessment; home visits to child/youth's home).
  • Matching the volunteer mentor with the child (assessment and matching of background and special needs; parental approval of match; first match meeting of mentor and mentee).
  • On-going Match Support (case management by staff social worker; 24/7 emergency support; weekly telephone support and follow up).

Donation impact

During 2014, YAY matched a total of 169 newly referred at-risk youth with a volunteer youth mentor; while supporting a total of 591 total existing mentoring relationships. We also recruited, screened and fully trained a total of 539 youth volunteers to be effective One-to-One and Group Mentors. However, as we continue to match at-risk youth with mentors, more and more troubled kids are being referred to us. We currently have more than 400 youth on our waiting list. With financial support, YAY will be able to recruit and train more youth volunteer mentors to be matched with the kids on our wait list.

Group Mentoring Program:

Our Group Mentoring Program, was designed to support our existing mentor matches, as well as providing engagement to the more than 400 at-risk kids on our waiting list for a Mentor. The program reduces the financial and social strain on mentors and families by providing free, structured activities and events that build confidence, life skills and social dexterity. It also provides our mentor matches with great opportunities to bond and develop their relationship. Perhaps even more importantly, our Group Mentoring Program provides the troubled kids on our waiting list with structured activities and support while they wait for their One-to-One mentor. We are one of the only youth agencies in Toronto that provides structured activities to the clients on our waiting list.

Activities a donation will support

Group Mentoring consists of a wide variety of educational, arts, sports and recreational related activities and events that are conducted regularly throughout Toronto and York Region. Donations to our Group Mentoring Program will support permit fees, participant transportation, healthy snacks and the purchasing of program equipment for the following types of activites:

  • Girls Only (GO) Program (10 week program in various Toronto locations)
  • "Clicks and Stones" Cyberbullying Awareness Program (3 hour workshops in school and community based settings)
  • "Saddle Up for Success" Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program (8 week award winning program)
  • YAY Annual Family Picnic (an average of 400 YAY kids and families having fun in the sun)
  • YAY Annual Summer Camp (amazing 3 day outdoor experience in Haliburton for our mentor matches)
  • A variety of educational, sports or arts related field trips (Blue Jays games, Raptors games, Ontario Science Centre, the ROM, etc.)

Donation impact

In 2014 YAY's Group Mentoring Program included a total of 106 activities with more than 2,800 youth in attendance. In addition, we were able to match 169 youth from our wait list with their very own One-to-One Mentor in 2014. With financial support, we will be able to sustain and expand our Group Mentoring Program to include more activities and event. Ultimately, donations will support the bonding of our existing mentor matches, while also helping to support the troubled kids on our wait list.

For additional information regarding on donations, volunteering or our programs and services, please visit our website - www.thepeerproject.com - or contact Ed Carlson, Director of Development at (416) 932-1919 Ext. 222 or via email at ecarlson@yay.org.

Contact

Edward Carlson
Director of Development
416.932.1919 x222
Charitable Number: 119307478RR0001

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 1,164,165

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