Local youth program celebrates milestone

The Youth and Ecological Restoration program's Wendy Kotilla teaches past program participant Matt Rye about salmon monitoring in MIllard Creek.

The Youth and Ecological Restoration program's Wendy Kotilla teaches past program participant Matt Rye about salmon monitoring in MIllard Creek.

Ten years ago, Wendy Kotilla started a program merging restorative justice and ecological restoration in the Comox Valley.

Now, as Kotilla’s Youth and Ecological Restoration (YER) program celebrates its 10th anniversary,

250 youth have completed phase one of the program, and a further 24 have completed phase two.

“It feels really good,” Kotilla says of working with youth in the program. “I feel like I kind of helped them along their journey. I ran into a youth (after he completed the program) … and he said it changed his life — it was the start of him getting on a good path in his life — and that was just such an affirmation of the work that I’m doing.”

Youth, (aged 12 to 18), having trouble connecting with school, community and employment, can participate in phase one of the program. Kotilla works one-on-one doing ecological restoration activities with each participant for 20 hours. Some examples of activities include salmon enhancement, habitat restoration, watershed assessment and monitoring and community environmental education.

The final task in the program sees youth present to an organization of their choice, something Kotilla says was prompted by her experience with Toastmasters. Participants receive a letter of reference from Kotilla upon completion of the program.

Phase two sees two youth who have completed phase one work with Kotilla and a community member to build on skills gained in phase one, focusing on a specific project. The two youth lead a public tour of the project site before they complete phase two.

Kotilla notes the program began with about 50 per cent of youth participating as part of mandatory community service hours. But, now just 10 per cent participate as part of community service.

“It’s become more of an early intervention thing, for getting youth on the right track, rather than when they’re already in trouble,” she says, adding participants generally warm to the program partway through. “They’re uncertain in the beginning lots of times and then by about halfway through they’re feeling a lot more comfortable working with me.”

Participants also work with various organizations, ranging from local groups like the Morrison Creek Streamkeepers, Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society and Comox Valley Project Watershed Society, to larger organizations like BC Hydro, and government agencies like the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Transportation.

“The key thing is building relationships with people in the community and with the natural world,” continues Kotilla. “You bring the youth together with elders in the community and there is this role modelling going on, this mentoring, and it increases the youth’s view of our community.”

Five goals of the program are building healthy community relationships; gaining valued work experience; improving ecological knowledge; increasing personal and social skills; and enhancing communication skills.

YER is funded by the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Participants are referred to the program, many by their school. Those who complete the program receive a $50 honourarium, excluding those who participate as part of mandatory community service hours.

Kotilla has a Restoration of Natural Systems diploma from University of Victoria, and Negotiation and Mediation certificates from the Justice Institute of BC.

Visit www.youthecology.ca for more information, or contact Wendy Kotilla at wkotilla@shaw.ca or 250-336-8487.


YER anniversary celebration details

The Youth and Ecological Restoration program celebrates its 10th anniversary at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 25 at Zocalo Café in Courtenay.

Tapas and cake will be served at 6 p.m., followed by a slideshow at 7 p.m. and presentations from two past youth participants, as well as long-time program supporter Doug Hillian, Ministry of Children and Families director of practise for the Central and North Island and Courtenay councillor.

Anyone who has been involved with YER is invited to attend.

Donations will be accepted to help cover costs of the celebration.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A WestJet flight on the runway leaving Comox. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Aviation company seeks contracted employees to fill former WestJet roles at YQQ

Menzies Aviation from Edinburgh Park, Scotland, operates in 34 countries across the world

A cougar was spotted Monday near Queneesh Elementary. (WildSafe BC photo)
Cougar sighted Monday near Courtenay school

Conservation officers are warning the public to avoid the wooded areas around… Continue reading

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
SD71 to address COVID-19 exposures with virtual town hall

The meeting is set for Thursday, March 4

Courtenay Elementary is the latest school on a growing list that has COVID-19 exposures. Google Maps photo
Courtenay Elementary latest school on growing list of COVID-19 exposures

Exposure dates at the school on McPhee Avenue are Feb. 22, 23 and 24

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Tofino Resort and Marina has temporarily shut down after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19. (Nora O’Malley photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at Tofino Resort and Marina

Resort apologizes to Hesquiaht First Nation for Valentine’s Day boating incident.

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Most Read