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Speaking Rights: A Great Fit for Any Organization

The promotion of rights and responsibilities with youth in an alternative suspension program could be a challenge for some people. But, for Andrew and the YMCA team, it has become something they do naturally. Speaking Rights has contributed to this. Andrew and its team consider Speaking Rights as a very flexible program that offers simple, fun and meaningful activities, about a variety of human rights subjects that are important to young people.

Andrew Borrelli
Coordinator of Development and Training
Les YMCA du Québec |
YMCA Alternative Suspension Program
Flexibility is important, because the young people that come to the YMCA Alternative Suspension Program face different behavioural issues that are addressed in a variety of ways. Sometimes the youth workers meet with the young person on an individual basis, sometimes they meet in a group setting. So, they need a flexible tool that can be used in different contexts. The Speaking Rights program has become a tool that is used on a regular basis. Andrew believes that any organization could use the Speaking Rights Toolkit: “What is fantastic about the Speaking Rights Toolkit is that it is a great fit for any organization. It makes sense. It is something that is very relevant for our kids today as our world is getting kind of smaller if you will and there is a lot more people of different kinds of backgrounds and that make different kinds of lifestyle choices and it is the way we need to learn to live together and this is a way of doing that. It is a way to teach kids to be more open-minded, to have some perspectives and to get along better and I think that is important.” Being involved with Equitas and using Speaking Rights has changed the way the Alternative Suspension program approaches human rights. In fact, Andrew mentioned that Equitas was instrumental in adding the human rights angle to their programming. The support Equitas has provided was a key factor in ensuring that Andrew and the YMCA team implemented the Speaking Rights program. Attending the training, learning about the approach, sharing experiences with other organizations and seeing how they use the Speaking Rights program is crucial, according to Andrew. Most of the youth workers involved in the YMCA Alternative Suspension Program in Montreal have been trained to use the activities in the Toolkit and the educational approach of the Speaking Rights program. Andrew himself participated in 2 trainings with Equitas and has been a member the Speaking Rights Steering Committee since 2011. In January 2011, convinced of the importance of the program, he asked Equitas to train all the national alternative suspension program staff that came from different provinces all across Canada. YMCA Alternative Suspension Program – Les YMCA du Québec The YMCA Alternative Suspension Program has been designed as an out-of-school intervention, which establishes bonds of trust and creates a support network of groups of students (12-17) that assists them in addressing suspension and/or temporary expulsion issues while supporting a consistent and strong academic focus. The initiative is intended to successfully reintegrate suspended and/or temporary expelled students back into the classroom, as well as to address, at the same time, other behavioural difficulties (such as exhibiting aggressive, impulsive, disruptive, and antisocial behaviours, having delinquent peers or poor parental supervision) that place these youth at risk of delinquency. http://alternativesuspension.ca/en/ Jean-Sébastien Vallée, Education Specialist, Equitas

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