A Night of Innovation & Empowerment

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An evening of live entertainment, delicious food, and a  diverse group of individuals all celebrating was definitely the  place to be on Wednesday, January 28th- SHIFT25 A  celebration of Youth Challenge International’s 25 years of  hard work in youth empowerment and innovation.

Held at Toronto’s Regent Park, I, along with over 200 other  guests, had the delight of glimpsing into YCI’s work and  initiatives as well as the launch of their new YCI program.

 Coming to a professional event such as this that is hosted by  an organization -who deals with very serious and large  issues in the community- you would think that it would be  one of those “formal attire” parties where the people are  there to discuss the issue at hand, take a sip of their drink, chuckle politely, and stand around rigidly for a couple of hours. I’m quite pleased to say that it was quite the opposite.

Upon entering the chic and modern building, I was cheerfully greeted by YCI staff who promptly signed both me and my entourage in before allowing us to disperse and explore our surroundings. Along with the warm welcoming, the dim lighting and the upbeat music playing softly in the background set the perfect type of relaxing atmosphere that everybody needed in order to enjoy the night’s activities and do some networking- a bit of professional mingling.

Accommodating for an incredibly vast network of guests attending from different professions, geographical locations, and cultural backgrounds is no easy task to take on, but I was surprised to see how effortlessly the staff at YCI were able to unite us all. From riveting African drumming performances to passionate spoken word poetry delivered from Regent Park’s local artists, guests were thoroughly engaged and even more entertained throughout the night. Whether it were an engineer, a businessman, a university professor, or a young high school student, there was always something exciting to look forward to that evening.

So if YCI was aiming to attract diversity of all kinds, then they’ve achieved that 110%.

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Throughout the night, SHIFT25 held three interactive sessions led by influential activists and artists based on three core themes: connect, impact, and inspire. Each experience was an opportunity to both learn about different types of strategies as solutions to inspire youth to succeed, as well as -my favourite part of the night- network.

I explored all but the Connect Zone- which in the end turned out to be okay because of what I was able to gain from the other two overall. While participating in the Impact and Inspire Zones, which focused on youth entrepreneurship & employment as well as conversing through arts & culture, I was able to meet dozens of new people in a way I never have before.

Being a journalist, networking is both a great and an important aspect to doing what I do, and for the most part, SHIFT25 offered the best of all situations to be networking in; diverse individuals in a casual setting who wanted to come in to learn something.

I found it especially warming that the positive energy radiating from the YCI staff was so pertinent in all the guests as well. There was not one person I spoke to Wednesday night who wasn’t open-minded, sincere, and as passionate about what they wanted to pursue in their professions as everybody here was.

What started off as business introductions became excited conversations about plans and goals that everybody I talked to would gladly help me to achieve in the future. It was like talking to some close friends and making plans for the weekend- just some more influential plans.

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An organization where “diversity and talent come together to shape a better future for youth around the world” according to YCI’s website, was definitely the kind of message that was sent across to everybody by the end of the evening. New networks -and great friends- were made, ideas and goals were discussed, and a ton of fun was to be had. Definitely a pleasure to experience such powerful initiatives, even if on a smaller scale.

In my opinion, I thought YCI’s ability to weave in all their core traits and values into the evening through such creative and exciting ways made it an even better success. Jordan Walker, the events and outreach assistant for SHIFT25, couldn’t agree more.

“It was a lot of work, but we wanted to make it exciting and different,” said Walker, “This is the first year of SHIFT25 because of its anniversary, and what started off as a simple ‘wine and cheese’ sort of thing became something so much bigger because of what we were planning for the future of YCI and what we wanted to convey to everybody who came.”

And they nailed it.

Whether it was to come and make some new business colleagues, watch some live entertainment, or just to make a new friend that night, YCI’s message was clear: bring people together, empower them, and push for positive change.

What I took away from this experience? New friends, new goals, new confidence and inspiration, and a new outlook on creative innovation; an empowered mindset and a drive for change, whether big or small.

“It all comes down to people” said YCI, and it truly is.

Meet the author, Julie Do:

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A Ryerson journalism student who is excited and curious to learn about the things going on around her- both internationally and locally. Learning to explode out of her introverted shell with confidence and knowledge to share to the world, she spends her time exploring,  conquering challenges thrown at her, and creating valuable relationships in all her  interactions. Her passion lies in writing and filming about anything and everything- whether  it be to convey a message on a controversial issue or to make people laugh. Her goal in life:  to communicate and make a difference in people’s daily lives through various art forms.

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door

Visit Julie’s Twitter page  Check out her new blog!

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