Empowering youth to find their ‘spark’


Today’s youth are facing challenges on every front—in school, at home, as they enter the workforce, and at nearly every stage after that. However, with the help of mentors, youth can face life’s challenges knowing that someone has their back. Liz Clarke says youth simply need help unlocking their potential.  

Liz found a love for the arts early on, writing stories as a child that sparked a passion in her to explore spoken word poetry. Her interests in visual artistry, piano composition, event coordination, videography, and public speaking have also led her to host her own events for Black youth in Ottawa. At GenNext Amplify, Liz spoke with us about how we can show up for youth in the ways they need, so that they can pursue their purpose and dreams.  

The power of mentorship

“You have a role. If youth are in your community, you have a role to be a mentor.”

Liz says that growing up, she was always looking for a mentor. She wanted to feel seen and heard, but she was constantly searching for that person to listen. 

According to a recent study from Mentor Canadaover 1 in 2 young adults reported that they could think of a time when they did not have a mentor but wished they had had one.  

Additionally, 55 per cent of young people who faced barriers accessing mentors said they didn’t know how to find one. 

Liz’s experience led her to become an advocate for mentorship across all communities. She emphasizes that youth need trusted adults in their lives that they can turn to for help and for affirmation.  

Representation matters

It’s one thing to tell youth that they should pursue their dreams. It’s another to show them what’s possible. Liz says a major barrier for youth is a lack of leaders they can relate to.  

“A big thing with representation is having people there who are just themselves, not filling quotas, but people who have the same lived experience as our youth.”

Youth need to be able to see themselves in our communities so that they can see that the careers and roles that they aspire to are not so far out of reach. 

Black, Indigenous, and 2SLGBTQ+ youth, in particular, need to see themselves reflected in classrooms, at all levels of employment, and in success stories. Representation matters. It helps youth to feel seen, to find a sense of belonging, and to know they can forge a brighter path for themselves.  

Liz also emphasizes the need to address anti-Black racism and Indigenous sovereignty: “If you’re an ally, how can you be an asset? How can you push the needle forward?”  

The first step to addressing an issue is understanding it. Do your research, educate yourself on the challenges that people are facing in your community, and the ways in which you can support and uplift them. 

Find your inner child

“I’m talking to every single person because your inner child lives within you. There is a child in you that is seeking for your attention, that is seeking to play.”

When working with youth, Liz says it’s important to meet them where they are. Don’t let youth get stifled or discouraged. Instead, remember your inner child. Remember how much you wanted someone to be there and listen. Acknowledge their potential and help them find that spark within.  

“Can you imagine a world where youth at the start of their creative journey, decide they want to be a photographer, and we’re able to provide them with the resources to pursue photography?” 

Liz wants to see youth get access to resources, so they can explore their interests and be supported. Give them an opportunity to build something and to try something new, and they can do great things. 

“Why not be that person that looks at a child and says, ‘You are something. You are great!’” 

To learn more about how you can support local youth, watch our full discussion with Liz below. 

Help youth reach their full potential

GenNext East Ontario works with our partners to lift up local youth and provide them with confidence to pursue their passions. 

For some youth, professional development opportunities are still quite rare, and many young adults—particularly those living on low-income or from under-resourced neighbourhoods—are struggling to find their way. Thanks to GenNext and supporters like you, we can help young adults navigate their paths.  

Together, we can ensure youth have the resources and skills they need to transition into the workforce. 


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