City of Vancouver
A blog post by Justine Lee
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
My journey with the City of Vancouver has been a long one. I feel like I grew up, or at least spent half my life, in the City’s Social Planning offices. In the pre-Woodwards era, I started out as a participant in the YouthPolitik 2008 Program. This was my first foray into the world of non-profits and community networks, where youth and adults openly divulged their best practices and experiences without a second thought as to where one lived, what one wore, or what one looked like. I gingerly dipped my toe into this new pool of the unknown and after deciding it was warm enough, dove in headfirst and haven’t surfaced since.
After the Program ended, I emerged with a toolkit of all sorts of handy tools which equipped me for what, I did not know then, would be my long relationship with the City. I would go on to do such things such as help plan the first YouthPolitik Conference, facilitate and organize workshops for semesters to follow, and sit on the COV Youth Awards Selection Committee. At this time, Steven Dang and Lanny Jimenez were the dynamic duo at the forefront of every YouthPolitik session and they became my first mentors at the City.
I graduated from highschool then left for London, Ontario to attend the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. And it was a bit of a heartfelt farewell to the City. I knew I would return to Vancouver but I was not sure my involvement with them would continue, for who knew what the coming years would bring; perhaps I would strike up an unlikely friendship with the City of Burnaby.
But as luck would have it, the following summer I was lucky enough to secure an internship position with the City of Vancouver, and once again, they kindly opened their arms, ready to enfold me in a new wealth of experience. I was coming in at a time when a new initiative was just starting up- citizenU. citizenU is a three-year long City of Vancouver Action Research initiative, promoting anti-racism, anti-discrimination, and anti-bullying. As this project unfolded, I was able to witness firsthand Romi Chandra-Herbert’s magic with forming the new program, watched him experiment with different methods of teaching the curriculum, and witnessed the effect of the Program on the first ever group of citizenU organizations.
Beyond having the opportunity to participate in the facilitator training workshops, I was tasked with creating an internship/mentorship model as the final phase of citizenU, one that would create a long-lasting impact and provide a hands-on learning experience to select youth. My report was completed through online research, in-person interviews, and visiting various organizations to examine their best practices. I presented my finished report to City of Vancouver employees and my report has now been used to inform the City of Vancouver for managing their own interns. In addition, I also created a project development step-by-step toolkit, parent orientation guide, as well as sharing a presentation on social media practices within civic governance with a Social Planner to the department.
My work with citizenU continued into the summer of 2012 where I helped jumpstart a legacy promotional video for the Program, and also helped Peter Marriott at various citizenU events including the city-wide tour and graduation ceremony. My primary concern was continuing to build out the City of Vancouver’s internship program by creating components such as measurables and developing a training session with Dhaneva Panday. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work on the internship program I had in mind from last summer and to see how I could help continue to improve the City’s own internship program.
My experience with the City of Vancouver has been an overwhelmingly positive one. They have supported my development by providing meaningful work in order to allow me to experience the satisfaction of completing a project from start to finish. The events to which I have been able to contribute also have had a wide impact and I have witnessed firsthand how truly affected many individuals are from the workshops we put on or dialogues in which they engage. I have worked with different people in the department so have achieved a diversity of interactions and perspectives. The people I have had the opportunity to meet have been amazing individuals doing great work all around the city. I have met everyone from City Councillors and the Mayor to Neighbourhood House Program Coordinators to seniors working with youth, and each one of them has shown me their contribution to society and inspired me to create a wider footprint.
I am very grateful for the guidance and support the City of Vancouver has given me throughout the past five years, and I know my internship with the City has contributed to helping build a long lasting foundation which will carry on throughout my future endeavours – a foundation that started with free snacks at YouthPolitik meetings and ended in open cubicles with an imprint I left on the desk chair beside Karen Fong and kitty corner from Julianna Torjek. And although I may forget the names of my cubicle neighbours (I have conveniently embedded their names throughout this post with directional guides so this hopefully won’t be the case), I most certainly will not forget that it was the City of Vancouver who inspired me to be involved in the community in the first place; that it was here where I began to feel like a valuable member of society. They taught me how to swim without the water wings, gave me just what I needed to be independent; a challenge and I took it, So if you see a pool, dive in but leave your flotation devices behind – you won’t need it where you’re going.