Local students build empathy and leadership through Make Your Mark - United Way Alberta Capital Region

Local students build empathy and leadership through Make Your Mark

June 9, 2022


Edmonton-area students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are strengthening their communities with help from United Way’s youth leadership program.

You’re never too small to make a big difference in other people’s lives.

That’s the message we hear time and time again from teachers and students who take part in United Way’s youth leadership program.

Presented by Dentons, Make Your Mark on Poverty is a one-of-a-kind program that fosters leadership skills in students from Kindergarten through Grade 12 as they create and deliver projects that help people in need in the Edmonton region.

United Way provides guidance and funding for these student-led initiatives developed through Make Your Mark, while also supporting teachers as they educate students on poverty, the role of non-profits, and their own agency as the next generation of changemakers.

Our team at United Way has been working hard to invigorate Make Your Mark with new leadership development and poverty awareness content that aligns with grade level curriculum. By focusing on building these skills at an early age, we know we can support our youth who are passionate about making a difference . We know it’s going to take all of us, working together, to make sure no one is left behind as we build a thriving, connected, and supportive community.

This past school year, hundreds of students at schools in four local divisions were awarded grants to take on projects that helped people in need in our area. Throughout the process, students learned more about how complex poverty is, and how empathy and understanding help to make our communities a better place for everyone.

Here are just a few examples of Make Your Mark student projects:

Eastglen High School

Eastglen’s Leadership class hosted 8 Days of Giving where they collected basic needs for Youth Empowerment and Support Services in Edmonton, including gloves and boots, coats and pants, scarves and toques, thermal underwear, hand and foot warmers, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, and other toiletries.

I want to make an impact by helping families in my community to be ready for the rough Edmonton weather.

Ecole Secondaire St. Marguerite (ESSMY)

ESSMY raised funds and collected in-kind donations of basic need items for twenty backpacks given to youth experiencing at Safe House. Students met with representatives with Safe House and learned about the challenges vulnerable youth face.

This project gave us an opportunity to realize that even though we are young, we can make a difference and we can work for change in our community.

Father Leo Green Catholic Elementary School

Students at Father Leo Green school assembled backpacks full of winter items including thermal blankets, first aid kits, masks, and hand warmers for participants accessing services at the Mustard Seed. They also created 45 cards for youth who had been victims of crime.

The students expressed happiness, and a feeling of pride because they were able to help others. Most were happy to understand more about poverty and how they can help others.

John A McDougall School

The Grade 5 class at John A McDougall School created the Little Community Box as a free pantry for community members to access essential needs, including warm winter wear and hygiene items.

The students learned, even at their age, that they could be a part of a community that helped to strengthen the border community focusing on those in need.

Michael A Kostek School

Two classes at Michael A Kostek school gathered items to donate to Hope Mission, including sleeping bags, socks and underwear, toiletries, and warm winter wear. They also made sandwiches for people accessing services at Hope Mission.

The students were so proud of what they accomplished. They loved telling people that everyone can make a difference if they want…it doesn’t matter how old you are. It was definitely a bright moment in another challenging year.

Roberta MacAdams School

Seventy-five students at Roberta MacAdams School created winter care packages — including brand new skates, a helmet, warm and waterproof winter gloves, and warm socks — for students at another school. The students wanted their peers to learn how to skate and enjoy their community rink.

We heard from staff at their school that the children were filled with joy and excitement to receive their winter care packs, many of them have never experienced a Canadian winter yet, let alone gone skating.

Spruce Avenue School

Fuelled by their commitment to improving student literacy to meet their full learning potential, students used their Make Your Mark project to create, promote, and care for two free little libraries – one inside the school and one outside that is accessible to the community.

We want to inspire others and share one of the most powerful things in the world, and that is books and learning.

Strathcona Christian Academy has found Make Your Mark to be a powerful opportunity for students to become actively engaged in both poverty awareness and meeting practical needs for those in our community. This year they provided journals, pens, drawstring bags, and fidget devices to people experiencing poverty to support their mental wellness.

I am really proud of our students, especially during a time where things have been really difficult for our students and the community with the pandemic.

Sweet Grass Elementary School

Grade six students at Sweet Grass Elementary hosted a collection drive for blankets, toiletries, and other essential items, which were donated to Bear Clan Patrol Edmonton to support people experiencing homelessness.

One way to help is to offer people respect, love and courage. These core feelings and values can be gained through kindness and help from others.

This program would not be possible without the ongoing support of local businesses committed to making an impact in our community.
We are grateful to Dentons for their ongoing support of Make Your Mark on Poverty.