Community / Social Justice

The SJP Experience: Helping Create a Safe and Empowering Space for Youth

At Adler University, first-year students work with community organizations as intern advocates to help advance social justice. At the end of each year, students present on what they have experienced and learned through their Social Justice Practicum (SJP) at campus-wide events—and here on our University blog.

Lamar McCormack Adler University student

Lamar McCormack

Lamar McCormack, a Vancouver Campus student in the Master of Counselling Psychology program, completed his practicum at the Broadway Youth Resource Centre of the Pacific Community Resource Society. The organization is an integrated community hub that provides a wide range of supports and services to youth experiencing homelessness and other barriers in East Vancouver. McCormack shared his experience with us.

I’ve been told that one of the greatest indications of someone’s love for a space, program, or environment is when they find themselves reluctant to leave. That resonates with me when I think about my time at my social justice practicum site, the Broadway Youth Resource Centre of the Pacific Community Resource Society. As I drew closer to the completion of my practicum hours, I found myself wanting to stay in the space as much as possible, finding an excuse to extend my time there.

My last day as a practicum student at Broadway Youth Resource Centre was an emotional one; it was amazing to celebrate my time with the youth and staff one last time, but the reality of it being the last time I’d walk into the building as a regular face was a hard one for me to take. I’ve come to see that my time at Broadway Youth Resource Centre left a profound impact on me, much deeper than I had initially considered.

I think that speaks volumes to the work and contribution of the centre. It is a hub of resources and opportunities for youth between the ages of 12-24, regardless of walk of life or level of needs. It stands as a space of empowerment to all of the youths that come in the door, looking to provide and equip them with all that they would need to succeed and thrive on their journeys through life. From employment workshops to youth counselling, access to youth housing, leadership skill development, alternative education, life skills development, free laundry, and even access to a hot meal and showers, so much can be found within the doors of the Broadway Youth Resource Centre on any given weekday.

The greatest resource that they’ve been able to provide is a safe space—a place where the youth who access the space can feel at ease and comfortable. Though many of the people accessing the space may not choose to utilize all of the resources available to them in the space, they will choose to go there and stay, simply for the sake of being there. The Broadway Youth Resource Centre has cultivated an environment and a culture in which everyone present can feel safe, secure and at home—and the staff are intentional at facilitating the creation of that atmosphere every day.

If there is one lesson that I know I’ll be taking from practicum, it would be just that: to be intentional with my interactions when in a position of service. I hope to be intentional in my engagements and interactions with those that I’ll be serving in the future. It’s something that I hope all mental health professionals and practitioners remember to do, especially those working with younger populations and those working in community settings. The people we look to serve may not remember everything we say, and they may not remember everything we do, but they will remember how we make them feel—and that can make all the difference in their lives.

Sometimes what’s needed to change the course of an individual’s journey is just to genuinely be there for them as a source of safety, support, encouragement, and empowerment as they navigate through their journey and overcome various obstacles along the way. As a young person of colour, I stand as a witness to the importance and necessity of such spaces being created and facilitated as a means of the healing for peoples and communities. Such spaces being made available to me in my adolescence and young adulthood was extremely integral to my journey towards my growth and healing thus far, and I can only stress the importance of such spaces being provided for other young people as they continue their individual journeys through life.

As I continue on my educational and professional journey, I hope to create, facilitate, and make accessible spaces that will be conducive to the healing and growth of youth and young adults as they realize their purpose and actualize the infinite greatness of potential within them.