Self-doubt can be crippling.
Until recently, it was something Prince Edward County youth Lily was all too familiar with. She preferred more independent activities, and was often seen keeping to herself. She was cautious when it came to speaking up and struggled to find the confidence that she needed to connect with others.
Two years later, she sits confidently on a stool, poised in front of an entire camera crew and everyone on theROC’s team. Her biggest supporters, all silently cheering her on. You can clearly see every last one of them is filled with equal amounts of awe and pride. And for good reasons.
Lily’s come a long, long way.
“When I first started, it wasn’t the greatest time for me,” Lily says, closing her eyes, trying to steady herself like a tightrope walker before taking a crucial step. “But when I started getting the support I needed, that was what made me want to keep coming here.”
For Hilary Fennell, administrator and communications officer at theROC, Lily’s journey is as special as all youth who have come through the centre over the years. Every youth that walks through the doors of theROC leaves transformed. In some ways big, in others small. But they all add up, and serve as a testament to the work theROC is doing in the community for youth.
“It’s really such a special thing when someone comes through the door and they’re shy and they’re not sure how to interact with their peers when they get here. And over time as they get to know the people here and [begin to see] that they’re valued, appreciated, respected and welcomed here, they really come out of their shell.”
It’s a beautiful thing, she goes on to say, because it’s clear the role theROC is playing in the futures of these youth.
“You know that this is a spot that’s contributing to who they’re going to be in the future and that’s really powerful,” she says. “To know they have a space they can come to that’s fully wrapping around them and lifting them up and pulling part out of them what has been buried inside. It’s brilliant.”
A Welcoming Space
Whether gregarious and outgoing or shy and reserved, the years leading up to high school and high school itself can be tough for youth.
There’s academic pressure and expectations. Social dynamics and peer pressure. Social media and other digital platforms only exacerbate the problems.
“It’s exhausting, isn’t it?” Lily is asked. And her non-verbal response says it all. A big sigh. And a head that nods resignedly.
But at theROC, she finds a safe zone. One that welcomes her wholly.
She goes there to play games, such as ping-pong and board games. Lily also works towards personalized goals that she establishes every year. Here, she’s safe in the knowledge that she can be herself.
“Everyone here is…they’re all non-judgemental. Nobody judges you for your choices or anything. And there’s just always a place here if you don’t want to be at school or at home if things are going on and you don’t want to be there. There’s always a place here.”
There’s no denying the impact theROC has had on Lily. She recognizes herself how far she has come, and her willingness to speak publicly about it, is a true testament to that.
“Like I said, when I was first coming here, I was not in the greatest of places. But [since then], we have done a lot of work on it, and I’m a lot happier than I was back then. And it’s always there if you need it.”
She continues to work on building her self-confidence and she has theROC there to continue to support her.
“Everyone here always knows how to cheer you up and if you’re not very confident at the moment, they’ll always be there to lift you up instead of breaking you down. And they’ll always say something to help build that confidence.”
One thing’s for sure: Lily’s grateful for the support theROC has given her and knowing they will be there for her in the future.
“[I wouldn’t be as] good as I am now,” she says with a small smile. “Coming here has taken off a lot of stress. If I wasn’t coming here, everything would still be the same.”
Good thing we can say that’s not the case.
A Bright Future
Lily’s final message to theROC is unsurprisingly one of gratitude.
“Thank you for helping me get my life back together. And helping me figure things out.”