All in for Youth supports students through uncertainty - United Way Alberta Capital Region

All in for Youth supports students through uncertainty

September 7, 2022


Students have faced upheaval over the last two years, but thanks to supporters, All in for Youth is there for them.

More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, students, teachers, and families are still struggling.

Health and safety restrictions, illness and stress, on-again-off-again school attendance, and general uncertainty have been hard on everyone. But these challenges have been magnified for vulnerable kids, their families, and their teachers. Because graduating from high school can mean the difference between living in poverty and not, it is vital to quickly address the challenges that students face.

When Devan* was a 16-year-old student, they lived at home with their family. Over the previous year, the relationship between Devan and their parents had deteriorated. Devan’s parents had been laid off early in the pandemic, and money was extremely tight. Between their parents’ daily arguments and moving to online learning, Devan’s stress was overwhelming.

With Devan’s family relationship worsening, Devan decided to move out for good. They crashed with a friend and started working to support themselves. School became a second thought.

“I thought I was going to have to drop out completely,” Devan says.

Thanks to an innovative initiative, Devan found help when they needed it most.

Devan’s grade coordinator at the high school approached them and thoughtfully introduced Devan to All in for Youth (AIFY), a collaboration of school-based services funded through United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.

For the past five years, AIFY has provided students and families in city center Edmonton schools with immediate access to mentorship, school nutrition, mental health services, and other comprehensive supports.

The mentorship and emotional support Devan received from AIFY helped them complete high school, enter post-secondary studies, and eventually reconnect with their family.

“The success coach made a map for me of what goals I wanted to accomplish. He even helped me to go to driver’s ed, take my test and stuff like that.” Devan says. “And I think they [AIFY team] also helped a lot with my confidence.”

Last year, more than 2,100 vulnerable students in the Edmonton region accessed support from AIFY on their journey to high school graduation and a life of opportunity.

“The All in for Youth team made everything possible for me,” says Devan.

Because of the ongoing support of caring people of our community, AIFY schools are equipped with wraparound supports. This wholistic approach is the first of its kind in the region and enables staff to address the needs of students and their families at school and at home – including the mentorship and success coaching that changed Devan’s life for the better.

But there is much work to be done.

After more than two years of pandemic stress and uncertainty, more students and families than ever before are seeking support from AIFY.

A parent recently expressed the value of these supports, saying “AIFY is there to help families and youth, like finance, emotionally, mental health, everything … I think those programs should be offered in every school.”

AIFY started in 2017 with pilot programs in five Edmonton schools. This year, we were able to expand the services into three more schools. As we see the impact AIFY has on local youth, we continue to ensure our most vulnerable students stay on track for successful futures.

*Devan’s story represents a composite of experiences of AIFY alumni