Written by Shyanne Nichols, a member of our Young People’s Advisory Council and former young person in care.
As a new member of the Young People’s Advisory Council (YPAC), I honestly can’t express how excited and honoured I am to be part of such a wonderful group. Here’s why:
I was apprehended by the Children’s Aid Society three days before my 15th birthday. I have five brothers and one sister that are all younger than me. Over five years ago, I was living with my mom and four of my other siblings. When I was just 11 years old, I was raising my siblings. I was responsible for changing, feeding, bathing, getting them dressed, eventually getting them to school, and all of the housework responsibilities. Each of my stepfathers were very physically and mentally abusive and had substance abuse issues. But, everything changed when I went into foster care.
Before I entered care I didn’t think I would ever graduate school or make something of myself. I was constantly told I would never be anything in life and I was laughed at when I told people my career dreams. This all quickly changed when I came into my loving foster home. They made sure I was loved and constantly told me how far I would go in life. They pushed me and believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. If it weren’t for them, my wonderful workers, and the support of the Foundation, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I am now 20 years old and currently on honour roll in the third year of my Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Youth Care. After I am done, I would like to obtain my Master’s in Social Work. I graduated high school with over 155 community hours, as an Ontario Scholar, and received a science award. I continue to be an ambassador, public speaker, and volunteer in the community.
Being on YPAC is important to me because it means I can use my past experiences in a positive way to help others. I can use my voice to share my ideas and experiences among other former youth and staff, so that together we can make a difference — even if it’s just one step at a time. YPAC is a family to me because together we are making a difference in so many lives, which is very important to me because so many people have helped change my life. We are able to be ambassadors and share our stories so other people have an understanding of our experiences. It also means that, together, we have defied all odds and continue to show people that we are not damaged youth from broken homes; we are individuals with dreams and goals, just like everyone else. And we want to make a difference, too.