Youth Stories

What is YARD?

YARD Hamilton is a community-based program that supports youth who are engaged in risky behaviours and would like support in making positive changes in their lives.

YARD strives to find proactive solutions to solve the problems of youth violence in the neighbourhood.

"I really like coming here. I don't feel judged like I usually do. It is nice to be open and feel welcomed. I like to be honest with people and I don't feel like people judge me here. When I left my first meeting I sent text messages to my friends to let them know how much I like it."

-Intervention participant, female 18

"I'd be lost without you guys [YARD]. Dealing with all this is new to me. My son's Youth Worker is like a big brother to him and he looks up to him. He wants to do better and is trying really hard! After they meet my son has hopes and plans for the future and is motivated to make positive changes. I will be the first parent in line to brag about the help YARD offers."

-Mother of a YARD participant

"I am very grateful for the YARD program because YARD saved my son. No words can express how grateful I am because my son completely changed for the better and is making better choices in life. I hope YARD can also help my younger son."

-Father of YARD participant

"My mentor was always there for me. I trust her and she listened to me which helped a lot. I was part of setting my goals with her. I am proud of getting a job and getting my life together. Talking with the group was the best part for me. This program has helped to me gain skills and learn knowledge."

-Male participant, 17

"The various activities got me out of trouble and kept me busy instead of doing nothing and getting into trouble. The program helped me make positive choices. I really liked my youth worker."

-Male participant, 14

"I am no longer in trouble at school or at home. I really liked all the people I met and wish this program was longer. I learned new skills that have helped me to make positive changes in my life. I was part of all the planning, setting and achieving my goals. I liked that I could tell my mentor anything. He was honest, gave me good suggestions and made me feel important.

-YARD Participant, 15

"I liked the rec activities best about the program. There is nothing I did not like. We did good bonding activities and I was treated as an equal. I had a strong relationship with my worker. This program was a fun way for me to grow as a person. You cannot make things better- Thank you!"

-YARD participant, 16

"I can tell he's truly understanding and listening in group because I hear words from his mouth that he has learned from the staff. He's taking the words to heart and truly believes in what is happening right now."

-School Support Worker

"[My worker] is a very supportive and understanding youth worker. He has helped me with my home life and achieving my goals. He listened to what I had to say and helped suggest ways to deal with my problems. He keeps what I say to himself. Not once has he ever given me a reason not to trust him. "

-YARD participant, 17

"I met more people who want to make positive changes in their life. We built connections with people and made new friends as we had an opportunity to leave the house and do something. I liked having an opportunity to speak during circle and meet people who are in different situations."

-Prevention Program participant’s group feedback

"Being in YARD has helped me to come up with proper choices that are better for me. I have settled down on smoking marijuana. I would recommend this program to my friends because it is a successful program."

-Male participant, 13

"I like that the staff outreach to youth in the community. YARD is a safe and positive environment. Before YARD I was lazy. Now I feel more motivated to do positive things with my life. I am applying for work and school. I have already recommended many friends and people in the community to the program."

-Male participant, 23

"I like that YARD is the kind of place that I can come after school to escape getting into trouble with my peers. YARD has helped me to see things in a positive perspective. The intervention programs here have helped me to redirect my life in a positive way. The staff have consistently motivated me to reach my goals. I would absolutely recommend this program because it is a great way to meet positive friends and have positive role models in your life. The staff here are awesome, the recreational activities are great and the life and social skills programs are a great asset for people as it boosts them up to live a healthy life and develop new skills. I have grown to develop problem solving skills since joining YARD. I am currently learning how to set immediate and long term goals. I have learned how to stay out of trouble from the law and ways to avoid breaking the law."

-Male participant, 18

"Boys and Girls Club is excited to partner with the YARD Program to be able to support our youth in need. YARD staff have been exceptional in reaching out and communicating with our staff as well as youth and families. They appreciate the importance of relationship building, respect, encouragement and support which aligns with our core values. We look forward to building capacity in our youth, staff and community with the support of YARD!"

-Boys and Girls Clubs of Hamilton

"We are so happy to see that the youth on the mountain are finally getting some attention. We are not used to things being offered to kids in our neighbourhood."

-Community member

“We really liked the people in the program. We can relate to the workers. They are comforting and welcoming. We would recommend this program to family members and friends. We learned different ways to cope in difficult situations and how to manage anger. We learned about other people, how to cook and that there is more to life than what we see. This program has helped us feel better about ourselves and helped us learn to deal with conflict at home. We choose to keep more positive friends and not to chase negative ones anymore. We are less violent at school and in less trouble. We have discovered new hobbies, as we got to try new recreation activities. We really like the food, the facilitators and feel comfortable in this group and shared good connections with other youth and staff. We wish this group was not ending- we want more!”

-Prevention Participant’s Group Feedback

“In this program we worked on getting me involved in activities, like rock climbing. I liked being able to connect and learn new ways to deal with things. I loved YARD. My worker was very kind, funny and helpful. She understands what I’ve been through and she likes to help me with things. She hasn’t given me a reason not to trust her. I recommended my sister because it helped me with anger issues.”

-Prevention Participant

“I got new experiences in YARD. I got to talk and learn new things, plus tried new things and got to meet new people. The group was so welcoming and we had a great time. [My worker] is very peppy and sassy which is part of what makes her so great. She can lighten your mood at any given time. She is so outgoing and she’s not afraid to be herself. She’s helped me so much and it’s been a big help. “

-Prevention Participant

“In case management we worked on getting a job, setting goals for school, going to class and not being late. I liked that the groups were each week with new topics. The facilitators were good at communicating and making sure we were comfortable and we got to know each other. My worker will let me rant and she’ll keep it to herself and she tells me her honest opinion. This program is pretty good as it is.”

-Prevention Participant

“I loved being able to connect with other youth at risk in this program. I would recommend this program because finding a purpose is hard alone, especially for youth. You guys have done more than enough for me!”

-Intervention Participant

"YARD has been there to support my grandson and myself through difficult times."

-Grandparent of YARD participant

“YARD was a great support, helpful and fun. I felt welcomed. When I talked about my family issues you were a support and listened to my issues. It took a while to gain my trust but after a while, after getting to know you, I learned to trust you.”

-Prevention Participant

“This program has been helpful to get away from things. I have too much on my brain and coming here was a refresher. I learned how to do budgeting and be responsible and independent. I was able to go the food bank with help. In YARD, you can do lots of things like cooking; go to Tim Hortons; complete programming and art. I was involved and my mentor got the answers to my questions. I felt like I could trust her and tell her things.”

-Prevention participant

“Every time we talked we set goals and how to achieve them. My mentor was understanding and sat there and listened to me and supported me. She was understanding and always there to listen. They were not a snake or a snitch and did not tell my business to people. YARD helps you a lot, teaches you to be more involved and friendly with more people. I am proud of anger management and going to school.”

-Prevention Participant

“YARD helps youth stay away from trouble, gang involvement and it allows us to succeed with our goals. Just like how I achieved my goals through the help of YARD.”

-Prevention Participant

“YARD is very helpful. It helped me to get my life straightened out and I had someone to talk to. It is like a family.”

-Prevention Participant

“Overall, things are a lot better in my home. Whenever my daughter had a meeting, she came home and we talked about what she had done that day. I would recommend this program to parents. It is such a positive environment. Thank you for all the help with my daughter.”

-Mother of Prevention Participant

“I felt very involved with my mentor. My mentor understood and our personalities were so similar. She never spilled anything I told her. I loved our meetings and only wish we had more of them. I am proud of achieving my goal to get along better with my family. I wish to make it far in the world and do what I love. This program was awesome!”

-Prevention Participant

“My mentor always helped me when I asked anything from her. She was very nice and we trusted each other. I am proud of being able to behave better while I was in YARD and worked as a team with other youth. By coming to YARD, I realized that change is possible.”

-Prevention Participant

“My mentor asked my opinions and listened to me I felt confident and trusted her and she kept my secrets. I am proud to be using drugs less. My mentor was great. She did a lot for me, was always there for me and never gave up on me.”

-Intervention Participant

“My mentor and I set goals. She helped me look for a job and even dropped off resumes with me. She had good input and was here for me. I trusted her and we connected to each other. I liked being able to hang out with my mentor the best. Being in YARD and exposed to other participants really opened my eyes. I enjoyed this program and recommended it and my mentor to others.”

-Prevention Participant

“I am happy that [my son] communicates better and it brought the family back to the same page. His mentor asked for my participation in setting goals for my child, which was nice.”

-Parent of Prevention Participant

“When I am speaking to my mentor, she looks right at me. I learned new skills and how to cook healthy foods. Thank you so much for helping me. You helped me in my life and helped me with my school. I now have good grades. Before YARD, I was always suspended but YARD helped me and I no longer have suspensions.”

-Prevention Participant

“I really liked the topics and the workers that were covered in the program. I get respected and feel like a team here. YARD gave me a better outlook and showed me what gangs really are. Other people lied about what gangs were before YARD.”

-Intervention male participant, 18

“When I met my worker for case management I found setting goals for school, job searching and resume building to be really helpful. I liked meeting with other people. This program is a good experience for teens. Now that it is ending, I think we will look back and say we miss this program.”

-Female prevention participant, 15

“The YARD program helped me finish school. I really liked the staff here at YARD. My worker was always willing to listen and she is very nice and funny. I really get along with her. She has been respectful and helpful to me. I would recommend this program to other kids like me.”

-Female prevention participant

“I felt like I could say whatever I wanted to my case worker. I really liked meeting with her when it was just us. She understood me, listened to me and helped me in any way that she could. The YARD program made my life a lot easier- I am not involved in drama anymore. YARD is a safe place to talk and hang out. The staff made me feel welcomed anytime that I came.”

-Female prevention participant

“Because of YARD, I have made positive changes. I make better choices, I finished school and I got a job. I really liked talking and working with my staff, other youth and my mentor. My mentor was a great listener who was open minded and did not judge me. My mentor helped me set and achieve goals. Some of my goals were filling out a housing application, getting my high school diploma and finding work. This program taught me how to have a plan before I act out. I learned coping skills to deal with different situations. My recent involvement with the law made me look at life in a different way. This program helped me very much and I believe it can help other people as well.”

-Intervention participant, 18

“Just make the program a week or two longer because once kids come they don’t want to leave because it is so awesome!”

-Prevention participant

“YARD helped me change when I didn’t want to because I thought it was a bad thing. If you think the change will be negative, it will be. If you think the change will be positive, it will be. At the end of the day I am glad I ended up there because I could have ended up in jail or expelled because they really helped me. I suggest anyone give YARD a try because at the end of the day all that matters is that you’re still you, just a better version.”

-Prevention participant

"In my time with the YARD program I have met such a unique group of youth. Many have overcome great barriers and are working towards making changes in their lives. Many are also facing very difficult circumstances and are struggling as they deal with conflicts in their lives. Navigating how to problem solve with these individuals has been a great learning experience. I have seen great changes in these youth as they connect and develop a network around them- at home, school and in the community. I am eager to continue to build these relationships and play an active role in assisting positive change."

-YARD Staff Member

"It has been such a positive experience interacting with the community- from the youth to the adults. I hear from everyone that I meet that they wish there were opportunities like this available when they were growing up. I am always impressed with how welcomed we are."

-YARD Outreach Worker

"The fact that we are able to connect with the youth regardless of where they live in the city helps us to meet the youth in places that make them feel comfortable. This also helps us connect them to their resources in the neighbourhood. We see the need to provide them with skills and assist them with their needs."

-YARD Staff member

"I wish a program was around when I was a youth. There are lots of youth out there who don't have the support they need to get through their teen years. To have a strong, male role model would have been helpful for me growing up in a single parent home. I know I would have made better choices with the support YARD provides."

-YARD Outreach Staff

"I like the uniqueness of the YARD program. There are not enough resources for at risk youth in our community. This has been an awesome experience. To see young people engaged in positive relationships with mentors and staff changes their lives."

-YARD Staff Member

"I love that the program is an evidence-based project. We have been able to learn from other models that have proven success and add our own twist to it. YARD continues to be a positive experience for me. Every day I have the privilege of witnessing youth make small changes and my hope is that this will lead to big success."

-YARD Staff Member

"I like that YARD is so community based. I think that the collaboration that takes place assists the youth to be successful. This also ensures that the whole community takes responsibility for the youth and works together to serve them."

-YARD Staff Member

“The YARD program is fun because staff are very inviting and joke around. I have liked the fact that I have been able to have food, talk with staff and it has been helpful to find other resources in Hamilton to help me. I know that if I’m upset I have a place to go and speak about what I am dealing with.”

-Male prevention participant, 14

“This program is alright. Being in circle and talking with other kids is good. We share ideas and think about suggestions. I would think YARD is good for kids who are in gangs and struggling.”

-Male Intervention participant, 16

“YARD is good in addressing and helping youth that were on the path of a criminal life and behavior. I would recommend this program because I saw a change in my son’s behavior. The case management and presence of a positive role model in my son’s life have been good.”

-Mother of YARD prevention participants

“This is a good program for youth to learn about life and learn new skills. Meeting one on one with my worker had made me think about life and its actions.”

-Male Intervention participant, 16

“I would recommend YARD to my friends because it will keep them out of trouble. I enjoy the recreation part of the program because it is always something good. Being in YARD keeps me out of trouble. It gives me a good environment and something to do.”

-Male Prevention participant, 14

“I like the activities we do. I like how we learned about setting goals and what can happen when we achieve them. We’ve been through ups and downs but we learned how to prevent things. Even though we might have charges you guys treat us like friends and give us positive reactions. The first few days I was shy but then I got to know you guys and I see it as you guys wanting to be our friends and then telling us the positive instead of the negative like our other friends do.”

-Male Prevention Participant, 14

“The YARD program was a great experience to be a part of personally. I was able to see our youth in a different light and can bring what they’ve learned back to their everyday activities at the club. I felt that the recreational side where they can be themselves and open up was the part I felt most supported to them. It gave them a chance to talk openly to the adults who cared about them.”

-Education and Youth Supervisor, Boys and Girls Club

“Being a mentor in the YARD program is a rewarding and exciting experience. I love the opportunity to give back to my community in such a hands on way. Seeing these participants make positive changes is a very powerful and promising sight.”

-YARD Mentor

“I like that the people in YARD are friendly and supportive and easy to get along.”

-Prevention participant

“I really like coming here. I don’t feel judged like I usually do. It is nice to be open and feel welcomed. I like to be honest with people and I don’t feel like people judge me here. When I left my first meeting I sent text messages to my friends to let them know how much I like it.”

-Female Intervention Participant, 18

"I enjoyed making food and eating food during group. I was able to spend time with my mentor which I also liked. She never gave me a reason not to trust her. Through my participation in YARD I was able to better my relationship with my grandma. Also, I got a job with help from YARD. This program should run longer because there is a lot to cover in a short amount of time and because I REALLY liked it. I think overall my mentors and the staff were great and I wish it wasn't over."

-Female Participant, 16