The Mills acknowledged for supporting youth leadership in inclusion
Creating a culture change requires youth leadership: Jeff Mills
Monday July 30, 2012 -- Michelle Strutzenberger
The Mills Community Support Corporation was recently acknowledged by Community Living Ontario for its support of youth leadership in the area of inclusion and welcoming.
The organization’s overarching vision is culture change in its local community, and it recognizes that youth are critical players in that shift, says The Mills community development co-ordinator Jeff Mills.
The Mills provides a range of services and works with people in a variety of life situations, including the aged and people who have an intellectual disability.
Much of that work is focused on person-centered planning for people, with a view to ensuring they enjoy a good life in the community.
“We see it’s important to kind of get that (person-centered) culture out in the town, as well as within our own staff,” Mills tells Community Living Leaders.
“It’s really important to connect as much as possible in our community, and a good place to start is with youth.”
Amongst other activities with youth, the Almonte-based organization has been making it possible for high school students -- up to 16 in some cases — to attend the Community Living Ontario re:Action4Inclusion youth leadership event each year. It has engaged local service clubs and other groups to help fund the students’ participation.
Mills notes a local high school teacher and even the youth themselves have also been champions of this initiative.
“Students are doing a lot of stuff on their own in terms of motivating others to get (to the re:Action4Inclusion) event,” says Mills.
An important follow-up is to take the learning from the re:Action4Inclusion gathering, and incorporate it “into our natural way of connecting,” he adds.
“Going to that conference is just a means towards an end; it’s not the end. The end is having more inclusive community.
“So we need to keep working with those students, work with other students, and have this kind of question part of their conversations — who’s not here that should be here?”
The Mills was presented with the James Montgomery Award during the 59th annual Community Living Ontario conference May 30 to June 2. This award was established to honour a group helping to create a better quality of life for people who have an intellectual disability.
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