December is always a busy time for everyone, whether it is because of the end-of-year holidays or anticipation of the new year to come. At Adventure4Change, while we were busy for the same reasons, we were also busy planning our year-end banquet for the Connect program. Every year, as the term comes to a close, we invite our youth and their families to celebrate the growth we have witnessed in our youth and to show gratitude to this tight-knit community.
The 2022 Connect Banquet was planned by Program Director Elysia Bednarek and Youth Engagement Director Josh Brown, both of whom have led Connect this past term. They organized a team of mothers, staff, and volunteers who helped with cooking a variety of meals, setting up tables and chairs, and welcoming the families when they arrived.
With their enthusiasm and loving warmth, Elysia and Josh began the banquet by thanking those who volunteered their day to help, and volunteers delivered delicious food, from plantain to jollof rice to creamed corn to salad to basmati rice and spicy chicken gravy. The families dined, and throughout the night, awards were given out to celebrate the youth that demonstrated the most growth, positivity, or potential this past year. As the night progressed, kids could be seen running around as they played games, people mingled among tables to talk to both friends and strangers, and everywhere you looked were smiles and laughter.
Between announcements from Elysia and Josh, there were five youth who gave notable speeches that night: Nibras, Kazali, Aziz, Duaa, and Muawia. They each talked about the Connect program, the community, and how being involved in these two things that are so intertwined has changed them and shaped them into the people they are today. It is clear that these two parts of their lives will also be what will shape them into the leaders they are sure to be in the future.
The awards given out at the banquet were given to youths who have demonstrated their abilities to lead, who have engaged in Connect regularly and earnestly in the last year, and who have stood out in their contributions and in their growth as young people. These awards were presented by Connect leaders: Hibatu, Megan, Katelynn, Josh, and Elysia. The Junior and Senior Future Leader awards were given to Hanan and Niman, respectively. Naahin and Matthew were given the Junior and Senior Stand-Out Contributor awards. The Leader Engagement award was given to Billy, and the Positivity award to Crystal.
There are many people to thank for making this banquet possible. First of all, to the community that we serve and work with, thank you for trusting Adventure4Change. To Calvary United Church, thank you for lending us your space to host programming as well as the 2022 Banquet. Many thanks to the Connect volunteers that dedicate hours of their time every week to plan and lead events on Thursday nights. Thanks to Elysia and Josh for leading such a successful event and Connect term. And finally, but importantly, thank you to funders, donors, and partners for investing in this impactful program that aims to make space for connection and belonging for young people in the community.