So you want to become a Youth Peer Mentor? A course developed by Youth Peer Mentors for Youth Peer Mentors

John Howard Belleville

Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using some kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Youth with lived experience in a child welfare system, with criminal records, and/or dealing with mental health challenges think differently about how to solve problems. Our Youth Peer Mentors (YPM) are often the best supporters for other youth who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACE), because they understand where the youth are coming from. Our Youth Peer Mentors are now sharing what they know. With the support of adult allies, our youth peer mentors have developed an online course to support other youth who might want to become a Youth Peer Mentor. Participants in this workshop will receive access to this trauma-informed course to learn about our work, to provide feedback, and to help us understand how we can share the resource with others who could benefit.


Julia Eagles
A 2020 graduate of the Community Justice Service Worker program at Loyalist College, Julia currently works at the John Howard Society of Belleville as a Youth Peer Mentor. Julia uses her lived experiences in combination with community support training to connect with and understand youth. Julia wants to assist youth to eliminate delays and barriers as they find the pathways to their goals, and help them feel empowered and confident in themselves and their skills.

Liam Smith
A former Crown ward, Liam is a Youth Peer Mentor with the John Howard Society of Belleville who began his journey as a youth advocate wanting to make improvements to the systems he grew up in. Liam had a troubled high school experience, and found it mentally challenging to keep himself in school. He also has many peers who have struggled through their employment journeys. Liam’s goal is to help youth who, like himself, had many negative experiences in the child welfare system. Together along with the rest of the Youth Peer Mentor Team, he hopes to make a difference. Liam is currently attending Georgian College’s 1 year electrical pre-apprenticeship program, and is looking to take a firefighting program in the fall of 2022.

Liz Bosma-Donovan
Liz is the Community Connector at the John Howard Society's Youth Wellness Hub assisting barriered youth 16 - 29 year old to take steps on their employment pathway. Liz specializes in working with Cross-Over Youth (those dually involved with a CAS and the youth criminal justice system). Having worked for a decade in child welfare, Liz facilitates collaboration across legal & social service sectors to remove roadblocks and develop new employment routes for youth with Adverse Childhood Experiences.  

Debbie Woods
As the Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Belleville and District for the last 17 years, Debbie brings over 40 years of social services experience to our staff team. A tireless advocate for justice-involved youth in our community, Debbie has worked to create meaningful connections with community partners and helped establish the Belleville Youth Centre in 2017 to ensure youth have a place to thrive and feel supported. Debbie continues to lead our team in seeking new ways to engage youth with Adverse Childhood Experiences and ensure they have the tools they need in order to succeed in the workplace.

Jennifer Abrams
Jennifer has been with the John Howard Society since 2016 working in both adult and youth services. Prior to JHS, she worked in developmental services, child welfare, addictions and mental health. Jennifer is working in the Employment Pathways program as a Job Coach for EP youth as well as exploring and developing Entreprenurial options for training and employment within JHS.

Key takeaways

  • Theme of building trust between youth peer mentors and youth accessing care is paramount to service delivery
  • Their core belief is to empower PWLE in their approach - when there is youth, there is a way!
  • Honorarium and gift cards are central to their engagement commitment
  • These components enable youth to be successful in their role
  • Created three courses to train others on building capacity for youth peer mentors
  • Course will be audited relative to key components

Key Learning Objectives (defined by presenters)

Success would look like:

  1. Sharing the "So You Want to Be a Youth Peer Mentor Course" with others (expanded reach and awareness)
  2. Understanding how others use Youth Peer Mentor Programs (ideas for improvement gathered)
  3. Feedback on what aspects people like about the course, who might be able to use it, and how it should be shared (get the word out, improve our own work)

Key Themes

  1. Peer mentorship with adverse childhood experience
  2. Mentorship training

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