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Teens discover thrill of philanthropy

Oak Bay High Charity Presentation 1
Oak Bay High students

They had the T-shirts: spray-painted black with metallic trim.

They had the technology: a Powerpoint presentation about the Victoria Youth Clinic. They had the speaking notes. But in a polished 10-minute presentation, four Oak Bay High Grade 11 students spoke with barely a glance at their crib sheets.

In the school’s theatre last week, the team members made their pitch to five school peer judges and a couple hundred other students about why the youth clinic should receive $5,000.

“It can be the only place to get a decent meal,” Grace Lee told the crowd. She followed up with a personal story about a friend who was helped by the clinic when she got pregnant. Each of her teammates, Kimia Hamidi, Liticia Gardner and Melissa Olsen, stepped forward with other personal stories about teens in trouble, some who were helped and others who could have benefitted from the clinic’s services.

The judges were convinced and named Lee’s team the winner among four finalists who took the stage last week to make a pitch for their chosen social-based charities.

The event was part of the Youth Philanthropy Initiative, a challenge developed by a Toronto-based foundation formed in 2001 by the creators of MAC Cosmetics. The foundation is giving $5,000 to one group in each of 35 chosen B.C. high schools to pass along to grassroots charities in their communities.

Teacher Scott Alexander presented the challenge to Oak Bay High’s eight Planning 11 classes. Over a month, 250 students broke into teams, researched charities around town and came up with a pitch. Elimination rounds narrowed the number of teams to four.

Alexander was pleased to see how the teams engaged their schoolmates and how the audience listened politely.

“I think that is because each student had been in front of their peers doing the exact same kind of presentation,” he said. “(They) knew what it was like to be nervous and to try to deliver a clear message.”

Lee agreed it helped that they had given the presentation twice already.

“Finding the time around all our schedules to get together to practice was the hardest part,” she said.

When they first started in on the project, they approached it much like just another assignment. But after visiting the youth clinic’s outlet on Yates Street and researching its services, the group has become more socially conscious and is now looking to volunteer at the VYC, Lee said.

“You feel that you’ve actually benefitted the community in some way.”

Offering help

• The Victoria Youth Clinic serves young people aged 12 to 24 from two locations, 533 Yates St. downtown and 547 Michigan St. in James Bay.

• It offers comprehensive primary health care and education in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

• It focuses on, but is not restricted to, street-involved youth and young adults at risk of poor health outcomes.

• Visit for clinic hours and other information.