Victoria Foundation’s Vital Youth Program celebrates 20 years of connecting students to community

Deristhi Govender and Chelsea Lee, Grade 10 students at St. Michaels University School, speak at the 2023 Vital Youth year-end event.

For 20 years, the Victoria Foundation’s Vital Youth Program has connected students across Greater Victoria to their community. This year, 12 schools funded 15 organizations for a total of $33,000 in funding across Southern Vancouver Island.

“Throughout its 20-year history, the Vital Youth Program has seen youth in the region step forward as leaders,” said Sandra Richardson, Victoria Foundation CEO. “It is inspiring to see them engage with the organizations working to address various issues and see youth carry this leadership back to their schools, families, and communities.”

The Victoria Foundation’s Vital Youth Program features students from schools across three school districts on Southern Vancouver Island. Each student group is allocated $3,000 by the Victoria Foundation to grant to local registered charities of their choice. The Victoria Foundation also provides an annual grant of $500 to an endowment fund for each participating school, to help ensure a sustainable source of grant funds. 

“The Vital Youth program opened our eyes to key issue areas in Greater Victoria and shed light on the gap between what the situation is, and what it should be,” said Deristhi Govender and Chelsea Lee, Grade 10 students at St. Michaels University School (SMUS) that took part in Vital Youth. “We appreciated having the means to address an issue of our choice and realized that by connecting philanthropy to a specific need, we could improve the quality of life in our community.”

Throughout Vital Youth, students use a variety of tools to research critical issues in their communities, including the Victoria Foundation’s Vital Signs Report, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. Students conduct site visits and interviews with organizations and then convene as a student group to decide which organizations they grant the funds to.

“The Vital Youth program centers youth voices by spotlighting issues that are specifically seen as priority areas for the young people in our community,” said Hayleigh Chafe, strategic initiatives coordinator with the Victoria Foundation. “The program transfers power to the students, as they engage with the community to make grant recommendations and support charities in our region they care about most.”

This year, $33,000 was granted to 15 non-profit organizations through the Vital Youth program. Over its 20 years, the program has provided approximately $400,000 in funds for local registered charities and seen over 300 students participate since its inaugural year in 2003.

Click here to learn more about the Vital Youth program.


Organizations Funded for 2022/23 Vital Youth Program: 

School  Organization(s) Funded 
Belmont Secondary School 
  • Broadmead Care Society 
Claremont Secondary School 
  • RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs) 
  • Victoria Women’s Transition House Society 
Esquimalt High School 
  • Threshold Housing Society 
Frances Kelsey High School 
  • Shawnigan Basin Society 
  • Cowichan Valley Youth Services 
Glenlyon Norfolk High School 
  • Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness 
  • RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs) 
Oak Bay High School 
  • Victoria Brain Injury Society 
  • Parkinson Wellness Projects 
Parkland Secondary School 
  • Victoria Child Abuse Prevention & Counselling Centre 
Pearson College UWC 
  • Open Space Arts Society 
  • Compost Education Centre 
Reynolds Secondary School 
  • Victoria Youth Clinic Society (Foundry) 
St. Michaels University School 
  • Umbrella Society for Addictions and Mental Health 
Stelly’s Secondary School 
  • NEED2 Suicide Prevention Education & Support 
Victoria High School 
  • Victoria Women’s Transition House Society