This week marks an important milestone for Actua: We are now twenty years old!
For two decades, we have helped Canadian youth think like scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs. In this time, Actua instructors have travelled to more than 500 Canadian communities – from urban centres to remote hamlets – in every province and territory, nourishing the minds, building the confidence, and changing the lives of over 4 million youth typically underserved in STEM.
Since 1993, we have helped youth see that they can make a difference today in their community and that they are important to tomorrow’s workforce.
It all started in 1988 at Queen’s University, in Kingston, with a clever idea to engage youth through a student-run engineering and science camp. The formula was – and remains – simple: Youth inspiring youth. Engineering students from other campuses took notice of this innovative approach, which was proving to be wildly successful in engaging kids. As they began sharing best practices on how to launch similar programs at other colleges and universities, they also realized their model could (and should) spread to reach youth across Canada.
Collectively, they conceptualized a national body that would coordinate reach. An organization that could keep the dialogue flowing between program leaders. A group of people who could manage the larger logistics. And, a leader capable of generating funding and partnerships. With this strong vision, Actua was incorporated in 1993.
We are now 33 members strong, reaching youth in every corner of the country.
I was fortunate to be part of that early group of student leaders. I was working locally at our member at the University of New Brunswick when our vision to form a national entity became a reality. I was even more fortunate to have been chosen as President and CEO 15 years ago. Staying true to the Actua mantra of providing access to STEM enrichment experiences for ALL youth, I helped develop and launch programs that broke barriers for girls, for Aboriginal youth, and for at-risk children.
Now, every year, we reach 225,000 youth including 5,000 girls in high impact all-girls programming, 30,000 Aboriginal youth, and 30,000 at-risk youth.
Moving forward, with twenty years of experience under our feet and surrounded by loyal supporters and engaged partners, we will continue to help youth realize their critical role in the world.
As the job market evolves into one that will increasingly call for highly-skilled individuals with a background in STEM, our programming is more relevant than ever. There is a lot of work to do: Job market gaps to address. Barriers to break. Communities to reach. Youth to inspire.
Over the next twelve months, we will share stories and host special events to celebrate our instructors, members, mentors, volunteers, partners, funders, and staff. Without them, none of this would be possible.
Without them, we would not have the opportunity to celebrate the more than 4 million youth we have inspired.