REACH Edmonton

A conference aimed at exploring new strategies for helping high-risk youth gathered a sold-out crowd in Edmonton May 12 and 13. Youth workers, service providers and researchers from across Canada gathered at MacEwan University to discuss innovative ways to help high risk youth with increasingly complex needs. The two-day event was filled to capacity with 430 participants, not including speakers and organizers. "It was the first time this kind of conference has been held and it sold out. It demonstrated a real appetite for this kind of programming. Many people said this was one of the best conferences they've ever been to," said Heather Peddle, co-chair of the High-Risk Youth Conference steering committee. "It was a highly successful event. We were astonished and excited by the response from the community. We turned away many people only because we didn't have the physical space." One of the most enthusiastically received topics from this conference was the focus on non-traditional models when working with high-risk youth. This means working with youth to find solutions to their issues, rather than forcing plans and strategies onto them. "This is about putting them at the front and engaging them rather than always playing a reactive role," said Peddle. "This is definitely one of the emerging trends in engaging at-risk populations. We want to give them a voice in their own planning, putting the youth as the expert in their own lives." The event was planned and organized by multiple ministries and community organizations, with 15 different organizations participating on the steering committee. "It speaks to the commitment that everyone here has to the youth and the passion these people have for engaging youth" said Peddle. "Everyone wants to do right by them. That's what made it work." Through many people were unable to attend the event because of capacity limitations, the webcast of keynote speaker Dr. Michael Ungar and PowerPoint presentations by other speakers are available on our training page and at