#OCChangemakers 2022-2023 Mid-Year Project Highlights: Kaitlin & Francess

Updates from Kaitlin & Francess at the mid-year of the implementation of their projects as an #OCChangemaker.

Ignite Activation Space

Kaitlin Goulet, Chatham Kent 

 Project Description & Goals

Ignite is a set of free monthly events for young people to hang out and have fun with each other.

When Kaitie first joined the Ontario Community Changemakers program, she envisioned co-creating an activation space with other young people. However, in September of 2022, she hosted a conference inviting people 14-29 from Chatham-Kent to join a 2-day event where they created plans for projects they wanted to see in their community, and they voted on one project they wanted to work on immediately.


I realized immediately that this needed to take priority over my vision for an activation space. Fifteen people from the conference signed up to be part of the Ignite Team, a group that would take on the winning project’s plans.


Project Highlights

Since then, they have met weekly, hosted three events and run a book club. In December, Kaitie decided it was time to shift direction. The big question was how the group could go beyond fun events to create something more impactful. After identifying priorities as a team (increasing a sense of belonging, providing opportunities and empowering others), they created concepts for projects together: ‘The Box Project’ and ‘Ignite Voice.’ Both focus on providing a platform for young people to express themselves, with The Box Project focusing on addressing issues students face and Ignite Voice focusing on hearing people’s stories. “I’m very proud to share that we’ve established plenty of meaningful partnerships in the meantime, including with a local board game cafe and an arts and therapy organization, to name a few. Not to mention, we are strengthening our relationships with local high schools to be able to reach more people and focus on creating meaningful change within the school system”, says the enthusiastic Changemaker.

Project Challenges

While Katie is hugely proud of what she and her team have already accomplished, there have been many challenges along the way. The main challenge has been to reach additional youth, which has pushed her pitch ideas to potential partners outside of her organization (even if you find it daunting and you get more no’s than yeses, it’s worth finding the right people). Not to mention she’s had to “up” her marketing game (which means calling a marketing company up for help!). “I’m quite confident that this will provide the results we’re looking for,” she adds. 

What’s Next

As for the future, Kaitie and her team look forward to watching these projects come to fruition and expanding to outlying communities. The Changemaker is working to create the Ignite environment, offering a range of support to other young people, from fundraising, tips on writing professional emails and forming partnerships, how to be a leader and how to ensure you are creating a safe environment for everyone. The participants will receive funding and mentorship from Kaitlin along the way. Including youth from towns that are left out is a huge priority, as attention is typically focused on improving Chatham.  

You can also expect a big event in September where the Ignite Conference will be bigger and better than before. “I can’t wait to see our team get up, share their experiences with Ignite, and inspire others to join our incredible team. I’ve seen a big change in many of our team members. Initially, most were not interested in speaking in front of others or even to people they didn’t already know”, she shares.

Kaitie has watched everyone grow so much, and that’s where her motivation comes from. She believes that if you provide the opportunity, it will make a difference for someone. “I am so lucky to have gotten to know all these people and to work with them to create something new and incredible. We’ve accomplished a lot so far; I can only imagine what we’ll do within the next six months”, she adds. 

If you want to keep up with Ignite, follow them on Tik Tok and Instagram  @IgniteCK


About Katie
Katie Goulet is a youth engagement lead from Chatham, Ontario. She’s most drawn to working with young adults and is passionate about ‘for youth, by youth’ initiatives. She knows that young people are more than capable of leading when presented with an opportunity, yet not many meaningful opportunities exist in the area. Kaitlin believes a good leader focuses on building relationships, actively listens, and can take a backseat approach when appropriate.  She leads Ignite, a genuine youth-led initiative in Chatham-Kent.


Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Support Program

Francess Dunhann, Kitchener

Project Description & Goals

The YEES is a youth employment and entrepreneurship support program. The goal is to provide mentorship, education, information literacy, and training to prevent participation in unlawful employment activities that lead to victimization and endangerment. Facilitating workshops and campaigns to help at-risk youth engage in positive life activities, break systemic barriers, and contribute positively to society. In addition, YESS works closely with them to assist youth in finding legal good- paying jobs by engaging with organizations that will hire them.

The YEES program has been favored and funded by the City of Kitchener, TD Bank, and the Region of Waterloo. This means, the program will run longer than anticipated. The Waterloo regional police also join us for the implementation of our workshop sessions. We want to impact at least 100 youths. 

YEES has impacted over 50 youths thus far and offered employment through the program. “We are also collaborating with the Community Company of Kitchener to advance the YEES Program and promote youth-led Social Enterprise which provides jobs/skill training, as well as a pathway to employment for our community’s marginalized youth”, shares the Changemaker.

The unique and self-reliant structure of the program will enable subsequent cohorts of youth to benefit after the initial program is complete. Between five and twelve youth leaders will be identified as Strategists as part of Cohort 1 for this project. They will support the research and development of social enterprises. 

The goal is to provide mentorship and hands-on entrepreneurial training for Cohort 1 as the team co-creates an enterprise together. This experience will give the youth valuable job skills such as hosting stakeholder interviews, analyzing data, researching trends, making recommendations, piloting ideas, and launching an enterprise. They will also earn a stipend at the end of the program.

Additionally, the broader youth community will participate in the enterprise development process by attending and engaging in community stakeholder workshops led by the youth leaders from Cohort 1.

While the outcome of this project will be a social enterprise that employs marginalized youth, the goal is to provide a unique entrepreneurial experience that will encourage the community’s youth to think and dream bigger. “It is a challenge trying to get many youths involved because most youths in our community are used to engaging in those kinds of opportunities, but it is a work in progress. The more we mobilize and engage youths, the more their peers will be inspired and motivated to participate,” says Francess. 

What’s Next

For the next six months, Francess and team have planned to create an employment-based enterprise to support marginalized youth in the community further. Cohort 1, Cohort 2, and subsequent cohorts will be employed directly through the newly established enterprise, providing job training, internships, and personal growth opportunities for this youth group. The program’s outcome is a self-reliant, employment-based enterprise that empowers an entire youth community. It also strengthens communities by positively transforming the larger community’s stigma towards the Chandler Mowat community in Kitchener.


To learn more about YEES, visit:

About Francess

Francess Dunhannis the Executive Director at Hope For Community Development (a youth-focused not-for-profit organization). She loves serving her community. Through her lived experience, her passions have now been entrenched in youth empowerment and community development. Francess’s vision is to ensure that youth engage in positive life-changing activities as early as possible to prevent participation in unlawful employment activities.