Feeling Empowered as a Youth Through My Role as the Community Engagement Coordinator

Feb 12, 2024 | Future North’s Impact, Stories from You

Written by: Keanna Duguay, Community Engagement Coordinator at Future North

Let’s rewind: summer 2021 is only a few weeks away and I am officially a Laurentian University graduate. I successfully completed my four year undergraduate degree and I can now write the post-nominal letters after my name; I am officially, Keanna A. Duguay, B.A. I am excited (and relieved) to graduate but I am also discouraged and feeling very defeated. I did everything that I perceived to be the steps towards success. I started my undergraduate degree immediately after high school, I worked two to three jobs to build my resume whilst being a full-time student, and I graduated with honors. However, I am facing the realization that earning my degree was barely the first step in my professional journey.

Inevitably, I decided to pursue a graduate degree to continue my learning with the aim of becoming a Registered Psychotherapist. This was always my goal, as my aspirations to be a mental health professional were solidified by my passion for psychology. But, let’s be frank, post-secondary education is extremely expensive (especially at private universities) and often requires a long-term commitment. Even though I loved my full-time job, it was apparent that I needed to find feasible employment on a long-term basis. A career that would offer flexibility (as I completed my masters degree), financial security and opportunities for professional development in a space that aligned with my values and contributed to the accomplishment of my goals. Kickstarting my search, it soon became clear that there were many barriers to overcome – one of which was obtaining fair-paying employment at an organization that valued my expertise as a youth. 

Earning my position as Community Engagement Coordinator at the end of the summer (2021) was a pivotal moment. I found exactly what I had been searching for, and it has surpassed my expectations. As a backbone staff on the Future North team, I have had the privilege of learning from youth (and adult-allies) whilst feeling valued as a youth. Working alongside other youth in the community with diverse lived experiences, has amplified my passion for helping others through effective communication, problem solving and action oriented goals. Specifically, my role as lead staff on the Culture of the North youth-led project was incredibly impactful on my life. 

Mentoring two youth interns/researchers was a unique experience that I would not have had the opportunity of doing anywhere else. I was able to share my knowledge and apply my skills whilst supporting youth that were determined to bring their vision to life. It was fulfilling to utilize my learnings from my undergraduate degree in an innovative way that challenged me to grow and practice self-awareness. I became a stronger leader through this experience and it paved the way for my youth work. As I reflect on this early experience and the experiences that followed, it is undeniable that Future North’s mission directly impacted my life. 

I am a Future North team member that has the privilege of witnessing our impact; seeing the positive community outcomes that come from a collaborative relationship amongst youth and adult-allies. Simultaneously, I am a youth that is personally grateful for Future North. They believed in me during a time when I was uncertain of myself. 

PS: Nicole, you deserve a special shoutout. Thank you for everything; I would not be where, nor who I am professionally, if it were not for your support and guidance during our time working together. You established Future North’s workplace culture and it continues to transcend into our work; a collaborative organization that fosters psychological safety.