OKN’s Indigenous Reconciliation initiative considers Truth and Reconciliation as two distinct entities, as illustrated above. Learn more about this graphic in our Indigenous Reconciliation Strategy.

Children spend a great deal of their first 8 years learning in schools, thus, how schools connect to their community is important. Progress in this area will show good connections between schools, parents, community resources and the local neighbourhood.

  • Parental involvement in schools
  • Youth as resources
  • Volunteerism
  • Community use of schools
Children thrive in neighbourhoods that are safe and connected. Neighbourhoods that can meet all of our needs are valued.

  • Neighbourhood safety
  • Neighbourhood cohesion
  • Walkability
  • Caring for the community
Safe environments benefit children by providing a sense of personal security that allows them to take maximum advantage of learning, playing and making new friendships.

  • Child care capacity
  • Quality child care
  • Parenting capacity
  • Parental monitoring
  • Quality time at home with family
Safe environments benefit children by providing a sense of personal security that allows them to take maximum advantage of learning, playing and making new friendships.

  • Serious injury
  • At-risk behaviours
  • Safety from harm
All children need positive connections to their parents/caregivers, peers, school and community.

  • Supportive and caring environments
  • Boundaries and expectations
  • Commitment to learning
  • Positive values
  • Social competencies

Learning is one of the cornerstones for success in life and starts at birth. Community progress for this result will show that children are learning both in their preschool and school years.

  • Preschool learning opportunities
  • Student achievement (EQAO)
  • Healthy body weight
  • School engagement

Good health is a prerequisite for positive outcomes for children and youth. Both physical and emotional health are valued in this result. In addition, given the critical brain development that takes place in the first 12 months of life, infant health is closely monitored.

  • At-risk births
  • Healthy eating
  • Healthy body weight
  • Physical activity
  • Mental health

Where do Halton Youth Find their Safe Space to Connect?

By: Lacey Swamy (She/They), Youth Leader, Writing from Treaty 22 Land

For years, I thought I was white. Truth be told, I never felt ‘brown enough’ to identify as anything else. I’m half Guyanese and half British, making my skin tone definitely not white.  It wasn’t until I was 14, at the start of the pandemic, that I realized I was biracial. Then at 15, I began to consider myself a person of colour, and at 16, I finally believed it. I would love to stand here and say I just woke up one day and understood my race and accepted it. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Being surrounded by predominantly white people all through elementary and middle school, I learned very little about other racial identities.

Going into online school, because of the pandemic, I spent more time on social media and eventually had the resources to learn more about myself. I remember being grateful enough to attend a Leadership Diversity conference, where I joined their biracial affinity group, within which I could share common struggles and feel connected with people going through the same thing. Isolation also allowed me to discover my sexuality after dealing with lots of internalized homophobia. Hearing powerful 2SLGBTQ+ voices on various platforms gave me the strength to come out as queer to a few friends.

I haven’t felt that same amount of comfort after returning to in-person spaces. Many institutions still display heteronormative/binary values, slip up with microaggressions, and lack diverse role models. The culture makes me feel different, and not the good kind of different, rather often the outcast type. At my school, I tried to start a multiracial affinity group, but no teacher volunteered to run it. Since then, all aspects of my identity have felt like a triangle peg struggling to fit into a circle box. I haven’t had access to any other 2SLGBTQ+ friendly or racial affinity groups I resonate with outside of my school. I feel fortunate to have a great group of friends who support me, but it’s so difficult to feel like I belong without those safe spaces.

Halton Youth need to Belong, so they can Thrive 

A smiling teenage boy gestures as he shares a story with his counseling support group.

This lack of inclusion is prevalent for many students in Halton. Findings from the Halton Youth Impact Survey stated that only six out of 10 youth reported having a somewhat strong or strong sense of belonging to their community. Although that may seem high, think of those four in 10 adolescents who are struggling, wishing for understanding and acceptance. 24% of youth felt isolated from their communities and 29% felt lonely. In terms of youth expression, only 50% felt confident to think or express their ideas and opinions every day or almost every day… leaving half unvoiced.

We must rethink and explore how our communities make youth feel. As a teenager, I hope to see more authentic youth engagement, stronger networks of positive relationships, and everyone of all backgrounds and abilities having access to support resources and activities. In other words, I don’t want a pride profile picture solely in June, make it the whole year! Institutions and organizations should start asking themselves:

  • Do our services reach all youth?
  • What does ‘belonging’ mean to our young staff?
  • What are some daily reminders or actions we can take to support our youth?
  • Are they able to be leaders and have their voices heard?
  • How can we connect with those who feel isolated?

I believe the change to a more inclusive Halton starts with an attempt to answer those questions.

Additional Resources:

Halton Youth Impact Survey Relationships Results
About the Halton Youth Impact Survey Results
Our Research
Relationships Results Bulletin
Developmental Relationships are the Foundations for Young People’s Success

OKN logo

Sign up to receive new blog post notifications automatically.

OKN organization graphic