dynamic opportunities for youth
Dynamic Opportunities for Youth, is a rowing program which is designed to share the lessons and benefits of sport with at-risk youth and youth living with a disability. The program takes a proactive stance against potential problems facing youth by making the rewards of physical activity accessible to those who will benefit most. Through the positive and challenging alternative learning environment provided by the program, identified youth are taught to value their role in a team and to make positive choices in their lives beyond sport.
Dynamic Opportunities follows a format similar to a standard Learn-to-Row and can be offered over 4-6 sessions. Participants begin on rowing machines, and then progress to on-water instruction. They are given the opportunity to try a variety of boat types (singles, doubles, and quads) and to row with different combinations of individuals, allowing teamwork to evolve naturally. The content of the program highlights special themes that address the needs of these youth, including self-esteem, teamwork, trust, personal challenge, discipline, and fair play.
Program participants include a broad range of youth, from students in mainstream high schools, alternative schools, youth outreach programs, and aboriginal counseling programs. Reasons for their ‘at- risk’ designation or type of disability vary greatly, but the youth can come from all backgrounds, races, and areas of the community. They are youth who are, or have the potential to be, influenced negatively by family, environment, or peers and/or social factors that deter positive mental and social growth. This may include those who do not have the financial resources or the ability to affect a positive change within their environment, family, or economic status.
It is important with any recreational program to recognize the financial barriers faced by these youth. For this reason, Dynamic Opportunities is offered free of charge to all participants solely through fundraising events and donations. The overwhelming community level support provides valuable resources and the necessary infrastructure for the continuing program.
The program has been praised by teachers, counselors, and community members. Participants have also commented on the lessons learned about teamwork, focus, and determination, as well as the simple joy of being involved in a new and rewarding activity.
Dynamic Opportunities has continued to grow as a strong and valuable community program at Vernon Rowing and Dragon Boat Club. The number of youth transitioning to ongoing rowing programs has increased markedly. Individual experiences have included participation in the BC Summer Games and regional rowing regattas. A number of graduates of this program now play a valuable role volunteering at both rowing and paddling events that are offered locally, gaining leadership experience.
"I've been involved in this program for over 10 years, first as a coach, then a coordinator and now as spokesperson. DOFY offers kids who face multiple-barriers-to-success a break from their reality. It puts them in a supportive, outdoor physical activity that can push them out of their comfort zone, and empower them to rise to the occasion. I have seen kids start the program saying "This is stupid - I'm not doing this" who go on to fall in love rowing, being outdoors, healthy and active." David Calder 4 time Olympian.
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