Melissa Millwood and Janelle Dayman – Trails Youth Initiative

Every year thousands of vulnerable Toronto youth do not get a chance to realize their potential. They are consistently challenged by a combination of barriers stemming from their circumstances. By no fault of their own they are at risk of not achieving positive life outcomes and are most vulnerable to violence, poverty, and crime.
Founded as a registered charity in 1992, Trails strives to ensure youth can pursue their hopes, dreams, and aspirations, free of barriers based on race, gender, economic status, or geography, so that they can achieve success and meaningfully contribute to their community.
Trails believes that early intervention, the right amount of guidance, support, and structure can change everything. Trails is about prevention: helping our participants identify their strengths and imbuing them with a desire to complete high school, seek further education and/or productive careers, and to contribute to their community.
Trails recruits youth at the impressionable age of 12, offering opportunities to those facing barriers to success. Those chosen are deemed to have the potential, but not the support, to overcome the barriers. These barriers include single-parent families, recent immigrant families and exposure to risk factors including low income, violence, poor education, low physical and mental health, lack of family support, and a high-risk fragmented community.
Trails is a 4 year programme, but many graduates continue on to help others.  Each year, Trails participants move through the following stages:
Year 1 - Trust
Participants arrive nervous and curious, and are introduced to the “Trails Way”:
  • Experiential, outdoor, adventure-based learning
  • Learning through the outdoors, not just learning about the outdoors
  • The importance and development of trust with peers, staff, and themselves
Year 2 - Self Confidence
Kids are impelled into more intense challenges and experiences.
  • Increased awareness and knowledge of the impact of personal actions
  • Skills such as self-regulation, time management, and self-efficacy
  • Growth as a community through feedback and support
Year 3 - Consistency
Teaching relevant skills and building relevant knowledge.
  • Communication, teamwork, and behavioural interventions
  • Leadership roles such as being ‘Leader of the Day’
  • Co-facilitation of programming and group meetings
Year 4 - Commitment
After 4 years of consistent scaffolding, participants graduate with the Roots and Wings that enable them to become contributing members of the community.
  • Development of healthy living skills, and social and emotional literacy
  • Deeper commitment to themselves and their communities
  • Ability to transfer their learnings beyond themselves
Year 5 - Contribution - Leader In Training (LIT)
With their increased skills, knowledge and confidence, their horizons expand.
  • Utilizing skills, knowledge and confidence to take on leadership
  • Stimulated interest in community contribution
Year 6 - Engagement: Facilitator in Training (FIT)
Paid intern position at Trails.
  • Interested and capable of creating change
  • Development of job skills, leadership, and commitment
Graduates of the Trails programme are further supported with mentorship during their Grade 11 and 12 years and into post-secondary. They have access to bursaries which provide financial assistance for post-secondary education which cover tuition costs. There are also paid internships at Trails and Scotiabank - Wealth Management Business Solutions.
Stephen S thanked the speakers and reminded members that we have been involved with this charity for many years, and helped them by funding the construction of their camp lodge.