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  • Writer's pictureKristy Colby-Pyle

Trusting Teens

Since the pandemic, we have become keenly aware of the experience of today’s teenagers. The months at home left a mark on our community’s at-risk youth by stunting past momentum and depriving teens of socialization. We witnessed depression and anxiety rise among our teens and a study from Université de Sherbrooke found that the increase is even greater among anglophones (Dr. Généreux). At Bishop’s University, research confirms that the disruptions to youth programs due to COVID-19 have particularly impacted marginalized communities like ours (Dr. Lawford, CRC in Youth Development).

As a result, the Phelps Helps team came together a little over a year ago, to answer the question of

“How can we improve the morale of our local high schoolers?”

After countless pages of notes and ideas, we came up with a plethora of various cherished moments you may have heard of recently. Some of these were: Friday night Youth Club, chess tournaments, sushi parties, outings to the Montreal area, etc. One of these has become very popular, pet therapy.


Sometimes it is hard to connect with other teens or adults, so an animal can be a good starting point. Erika-May, a trained zoo therapist, has been showing up with her dogs, cats, and birds to better the morale of our local high schoolers. We’ve been watching our students visibly soften up and become more social. They are brought back into the present moment as they rediscover themselves as a whole human, capable of fully loving another being (something not so dissimilar to mindfulness training).


Another good starting point is other humans, and in particular Phelps staff’s children. Our work is most successful, when our students feel totally connected to us. There is no better way to show them our esteem than by handing them our vulnerable child. When they are with our children, they sense our complete and unwavering trust. This helps us too. When we see our students rise to the occasion of assuming a role of protector or nurturer, we see them as unstoppably competent. We are reminded of the power of real and unbounded love. Interacting with new people also helps with community. It might be anxious at first, but seeing these new bonds forming is an absolute delight. Learning new perspectives from these new friends (and potentially new cultures) is great for social development. At Phelps Helps we really believe in it. We have seen it move mountains within our community.


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