For Youth Initiative (FYI)

For Youth Initiative is an organization that is committed to creating healthy communities by increasing life-chances of youth at-risk. We do this through the provision of empowering programs and services that are youth-driven, inclusive and accessible.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

For Youth Iniaitive, initially known as For Youth Project, was formed in 1995 as a project in the former City of York to respond to the crucial and pressing issues of youth disengagement, violence, crime, poverty and alienation among at-risk youth in the area. One of the key factors contributing to youth disengagement has been the lack of youth-safe and youth-friendly space in the neighbourhood for recreation and other activities.

Initially, the work focused on increasing access to social recreational opportunities for youth, but has since expanded to include increasing access to all youth services and mobilizing young people to act on issues of their concern.

FYI follows a by-youth for-youth model where the young people are central players in all levels of the organization, which adds to its unique nature. After 5 years of impactful grassroots youth-led work, we incorporated as For Youth Initiative in the year 2000. In 2004, FYI acquired charitable status and in 2005 we became the only youth-led United Way Member Agency. Currently, FYI is a leader in the youth-led sector; therefore, we strive to support other youth-led organizations in the GTA so we may grow together and serve our City's youth effectively.

Accolades and Accomplishments

In 2010 FYI’s was successful in renovating our space in at 1652 Keele Street to be a well equipped community youth hub.  Along with acquiring the physical space, we raised the capital cost funds needed for construction. Our new space includes a music recording studio, a dance studio, a computer lab, a new youth lounge, a boardroom, kitchen facilities, storage space, and new office spaces for our staff team and mentored youth organizations.  Inherent to the success of this project was that 10 young people from the community were trained and employed in the project.  Thus, youth actually built the space for other youth.

  • July 2004 - Vital People Award, Toronto Community Foundation: Shahina Sayani, Executive Director
  • February 2005 - Recognition Award, City of Toronto Public Health: On the Move Basketball League
  • May 2006 - Mayor's Community Safety Award: Real Alternative Program (RAP)
  • November 2011-Bhayana Family Foundation Award for Innovation and Leadership to Lekan Olawoye, Executive Director
  • March 2012- Vital People Award, Toronto Community Foundation: Lekan Olawoye, Executive Director
  • November 2012-Bhayana Family Foundation Award for Innovation and Creativity to Maria Bernard, Director of Programs and Sustainability

Our Programs How We Do It

FYI serves youth aged 13-29 in the priority neighbourhood of Weston - Mount Dennis and surrounding neighbourhoods of West-end Toronto.  The vibrant and diverse communities we serve are comprised of many low-income families who are often lacking in key social and community supports. The youth who access FYI’s services and programs often live in subsidized housing and have little or no access to youth-friendly space or recreational facilities.

Our programming areas include Community Engagement, Life Skills, Culture and Media Arts, and Female Specific programs. Civic engagement, critical analysis, leadership, youth empowerment, skill building and community building are encouraged and incorporated in all our programs and services. In full recognition of the barriers to full and equitable participation faced by youth, FYI strives to create opportunities that involve youth in community program planning, development, decision-making and implementation.

FYI’s most recent success was renovating our space at 1652 Keele Street to be a well equipped community youth hub. Our new space includes a music recording studio, a dance studio, a computer lab, a new youth lounge, a boardroom, kitchen facilities, storage space, and new office spaces for our staff team and mentored youth organizations.  Inherent to the success of this project was that 10 young people from the community were trained and employed in the project.  Thus, youth actually built the space for other youth.

This year, FYI will help over 600 newcomer and marginalized youth gain self-confidence, develop critical life skills and provide positive mentors empowering them to be fully engaged and equal participants in society.

Victory! TV-Online Youth-Led News Channel

Following the footsteps of our highly successful Victory! Magazine program that ran for the past four years and published 7 youth-led Issues, the youth wish to maintain their voice in the community by launching Victory! TV. Young people provided input through roundtable discussions as to what an episode of Victory! TV would look like. They wish to explore the following areas:

  • FYI Downlow (Debate, Opinions)
  • Community News
  • Health (mental, food, relationships, sex)
  • Sports (Athletes, Professional and School)
  • Entertainment

Similar to our Victory! Magazine structure, this program would run twice a week via a series of weekly 2.5 hour workshops and production meetings, facilitated by a Media Arts Program coordinator. The program would support 24 youth in total, through the development of an online TV channel that lends itself as a “youth voice” in Weston-Mount Dennis. Youth would be covering local community issues, city-wide issues and other social issues that affect and impact the lives of youth and would have a larger reach across the community. Within workshops, youth would learn scripting, film editing, camera basics, story-boarding, interviewing skills etc.

The close knit Victory! Magazine program organically supported the youth with their personal goals such as improving their literacy and critical thinking capacity, becoming more focused on their academic goals, gaining employment, and increasing their self-confidence. Based on the learnings of Victory! Magazine, Victory! TV will have structured support so that every participant will receive individual support related to academic and employment goals and be encouraged to participate in other FYI initiatives such as community events, community-based research etc to expand their life skills.

Funding and Program Partners

We are supported in these endeavours by the following:

Education Through Media

Urban Arts

York Youth Coalition

Intact Foundation  

Program Impact

Research over the last 10 years has demonstrated that low-income, marginalized youth benefit greatly from structured, arts-based community programming. Victory! TV program builds on the past successes of Victory! Magazine, which allowed youth to have a safe space to explore their identity, analyze community issues, and enhance their understanding of how broader social constructs impact their lives. Victory TV will engage 24 youth in having healthy dialogue and expressing themselves about relevant community issues through the development and implementation of a youth-led TV news Channel so it can have a wider reach through an online presence.

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

  • "City spending on Arts and Culture is still short of the goal set for 2008: In 2011, the City reaffirmed its goal of $25 per capita arts and culture spending. Proposed in 2003, the goal was unmet by 2008, and the target has been pushed forward to 2013."

Priority neighbourhoods experience this lack of resources acutely as residents in these neighbourhoods are less likely to have access to city resources and less able to prioritize arts and culture when finances are strained. 

  • "One-quarter of Toronto's youth lack a sense of belonging to their local community, a feeling that increases significantly as they reach young adulthood"
  • "A recent study points to much lower levels of feelings of belonging among Canadian-born minorities."
  • "A strong artistic community can stimulate economic and educational outcomes, shape and celebrate the character of neighbourhoods, and contribute to community well-being." 

Based on these facts, it is in priority neighbourhoods where arts are most needed and can play a role in revitalizing communities and developing the capacity of youth.  FYI's Culture and Media Arts program aims to fill this gap left by the municipal government's inability to meet their funding target and the community's lack of access to resources.

Participant Vignette

"Hi my name is Dimitri Graham and I am a regular participant at FYI. I've been coming to FYI for a year now and have noticed that since I've been coming to FYI, I have changed for the better as a young man. I found out that I have a passion for music but my future leads more to political science. I'm also a member of Victory! Magazine; a magazine that takes young people who face barriers in achieving their full potential through the design and completion of a 32 page magazine. There is also an idea to start something new and fresh, Victory! TV, to catch the eyes of today's youth and give awareness to youth about social issues within their community. If I participated I would for sure gain and be more aware of the issues in my community, how to better myself when preparing for post secondary school, how to become involved in my community and would learn how to cope with different issues I face as a young man." 

Youth Settlement Services

Based on a record of strong service delivery to marginalized youth, FYI was identified by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration Canada in 2009 to launch a space for newcomer youth at 1669 Eglinton Avenue West, also known as “The Bridge” where we serve newcomer youth through a range of programs and services.  The Bridge Youth Settlement Services site seeks to provide transferable life skills and leadership opportunities while building social networks and fostering a sense of community. These activities help to facilitate a positive adaptation experience for newcomer youth.


Programs that youth can access range from:

  • Recreation programs
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Gender-specific programs
  • Life skills building programs
  • Civic participation opportunities
  • In-school programming
  • Individual counselling
  • Arts-based programs

Funding and Program Partners

We are supported in these endeavours by the following:

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

City of Toronto-youth outreach workers



Archbishop Romero Catholic School

North York Community House

Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School

Archbishop Romero Catholic Secondary School

Nelson A. Boylen Collegiate

James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic Secondary School

Program Impact

Enhancing our ability to serve all newcomers regardless of eligibility criteria, stipulated by particular grants, allows us to promote a sense of social inclusion and integration through mentorship and relationship building.

Providing an inclusive environment for youth

1) Ensuring that youth have the opportunity to participate

2) Fostering a positive environment and interactions between both the host culture and the immigrant culture

3) Providing access to programs and services for newcomer youth who have precarious immigration status

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

"The Ontario Material Deprivation Index (2009)indicated that recent immigrants were significantly more materially deprived than those born in Canada"

This finding, included on page 56 of the Toronto Vital Signs 2010 Report clearly depicts the disadvantage that recent immigrants, as well as less recent immigrants, face in comparison to Canadian-born individuals: they have less access to material goods, healthy foods and hobby or leisure activity.  This can be particularly devastating for newcomer youth who become physically, mentally, emotionally and socially unhealthy.  Lack of nutrition affects their bodies as well as their minds, and can be reflected in poor academic performance, and the lack of time and financial resources to join other youth in leisure activities disrupts newcomer youths' social development and cultural immersion.  All this can leave newcomer youth feeling alienated from their surroundings.  FYI's Settlement Program aims to ease the transition for newcomer youth through the provision of extracurricular activities that focus on newcomer youths' particular needs, like cooking and nutrition, homework clubs and leisure outings.      

Participant Vignette

"The cooking program is good for me because we are taught lots of stuff. For example, we learn stuff about other countries' cultures connected with the food. When you are cooking, you can learn the country's traditional food. When I cook other countries’ food with other friends here, I feel like all the countries are different from each other. This spring, we cooked a lot. We have made Caribbean, Filipino, African, Mongolian, and Korean food! I find that the ingredients may be different but some of the food tastes the same even though they look different. The cooking program is a good chance for knowing healthy food options and hanging out with friends."

~Ankhbayar Batbayar

FYI The Bridge-Youth Settlement Services Youth Participant

Came from Mongolia to Canada in 2009.

Young Women in Motion: Addressing Gender Based Violence Through Recording Arts

Research conducted in Toronto has also demonstrated that this neighbourhood does not have nearly enough services to support the needs of young women and lead them to a healthier lifestyle. As a result of FYI's 2004 needs assessment and existing research, FYI created a female-specific programming stream to ensure that we were being inclusive of and responsive to the needs and realities of young women.

Through various leadership and life skills development activities the female specific programming strives to develop strong female youth participants through programs such as Female Yoga, Media Bootcamp, and Sister Scripture book and film club. One of current popular female focused programming is Young Women in Motion, which is a weekly young women’s peer support discussion group that’s conducted in a youth-friendly and safe environment. The young women use the space to talk about both personal and social issues and gain feedback from their peers and female staff whom act as role models and mentors. Discussions include: healthy relationships, body image, conflict resolution, dealing with change, safe sex. At present, we have identified a need to explore gender violence in a safe environment like our Young Women in Motion program, as the symptoms of violence among our young females appear to be becoming more prevalent.


  • Create a female-friendly safe programming space/Enhance access to traditionally male dominated spaces
  • Expand awareness and knowledge of gender- based violence  Develop key messages to educate wider community on issues of gender-based violence
  • Create a media anti-violence and anti-bullying campaign to raise awareness about the causes and effects of gender-based violence

Funding and Program Partners

We are supported in these endeavours by City of Toronto Community Service Partnership.

Program Impact

Program will create a safe programming space for young women to gain a critical understanding of the roots of gender violence and through this learning process are able to build awareness in the community through the recording arts medium. The youth-led media arts campaign will allow for a broader discussion among the community around gender based violence and its impacts with the intention to increase the supports available for young females who experience violence.

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

"More than one-third (38.2%) of female street youth in the study had been victims of sexual assault. Almost half of young black women on the street (47%) were likely to have experienced sexual assault. More than half (55%) of young homeless women experience violent abuse at the hands of their intimate partners."

The Toronto Vital Signs Report speaks to the violence experienced by female street youth; through our dialogues with our female participants and community knowledge we are aware that there is a high rate of violence experienced by young females in our community. They have also shared that female violence is not spoken of and little support is available to its victims. This program intends to bring to the fore this reality and create a much needed dialogue in the community around this taboo issue.

Participant Vignette

"The Young Women's Media Bootcamp program was able to help me a lot, they know what they are doing, note and pitch, ad libbing, singing, things I didn’t know I could do and they told me to try certain things. Now I know how I can sound, and get an idea.

I feel like a superstar when I am in the recording studio. I relate to artists and learn and find my own style. Being in the studio is a great experience.

I would be interested in a program that deals with the arts where we can discuss issues of abuse and relationships. But we shouldn’t just talk about abuse, people want to be liberated from it, young women are dealing with this, they are saying, 'I have these issues what can I do now,' they want a sense of belonging, they want help and do something about it.  We can connect it to people and perhaps do a survey and pinpoint issues and expand their knowledge and speak to others about it. Learning through the arts is really cool. I love the arts, youth will automatically like it when it comes to rhythm and beats, and they will be attracted to it, it is a good way to get youth to talk about this."


FYI Female Specific Program Participant

What You Can Do

Victory! TV-Online Youth-Led News Channel

Giving OpportunityActivities a donation will support

Financial support for the Victory! TV program would allow us to serve 24 youth develop media content and reach a larger youth audience through the dissemination of the content over the course of a year. Donations will be used for hiring a part-time coordinator with expertise in videography, and ability to engage youth and provide the mentorship supports they require. We will also be purchasing equipment so that youth are able to learn technical skills and produce the video content. We currently have 5 different MAC computers that come with I MOVIE software, but we need the actual video equipment which includes a T31 camera, microphone, extra battery, flash, lights and lighting kit, extra memory card, and Tripod Dolly. Having equipment on board will help us to sustain our capacity to engage youth through video over time. And in order to ensure our programs are accessible to youth who are coming from school during meal times we will offer a healthy snack, as well as TTC bus fare so that they are able to get home after the program.

Donation impact

Through the support provided youth will gain an increased sense of positive identity, closer connection and awareness of their community and an increased ability to articulate collective concerns and act or advocate upon them.

Youth Settlement Services

Giving OpportunityActivities a donation will support

Having more resources for our newcomer site will allow us to proactively outreach and serve an additional 50-100 youth with the proper resources. We will be able to provide TTC fare, after school food, and program materials to the currently ineligible newcomer youth.

Donation impact

We will be able to serve youth of diverse backgrounds and offer a holistic approach to healthy integration for all youth.

Young Women in Motion: Addressing Gender Based Violence Through Recording Arts

Giving OpportunityActivities a donation will support

The financial support provided will help fund a part-time coordinator to develop and deliver a curriculum for 16 workshops that use expressive media such as song-writing, music creation and drama to explore themes of violence within the lives of young female participants ages 14-20. The workshops would be 2 hours in length every week for 6-8 months. Financial support would also provide snacks to the young women and some program supplies. After the young women have learned about violence and violence prevention, they will develop a media campaign to raise awareness about the issues of violence within their community.

Donation impact

Through the creation of a safe space and the provision of a program that expands awareness and knowledge of gender based violence we would be able to educate the wider community on highly sensitive safety issue.


Shaneeza Nazseer Ally
Executive Director
416.653.3311 x235
Charitable Number: 876026725RR0001

Finance & Governance


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