Cassidy Graham

Cassidy Graham

Their book, Their stories: VOCYL book launch

Inaugural Victoria Opportunities for Community Youth Leadership book launch a success, June 11, at Horticulture Centre of the Pacific

Good times were on the agenda Thursday as more than 100 people showed up for the Victoria Opportunities for Community Youth Leadership book launch in the pavilion of the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific.

The book, self-title VOCYL, is the first of a kind by the leadership program, which runs under the Community Living Victoria banner at 3861 Cedar Hill Cross Rd. in Saanich. It costs $25, and goes towards the program. 

The stories are rich in detail, sharing the accomplishments and filling in the background on many of the VOCYL leadership members. It’s something the high school students, aged 15 to 25, haven’t had before. VOCYL members are in schools and programs throughout Greater Victoria.

“Once the concept got going it really grew,” said VOCYL coordinator Tracy Lemke. “The book has 20 stories of VOCYL members with or without disabilities.”

The idea had been kicking around for sometime when, earlier this year, it floated to the surface as the main focus for VOCYL’s annual fundraiser, Lemke added.

“VOCYL identified with the idea because they want a voice. They want people to see them for what they do and not for what they can’t do, which is too often the case.”

Sixty per cent of the initial print run, 125, are already sold.

“It’s been a very positive response for the youth, giving them a chance to have a voice in the community and show that they can make a difference,” Lemke said.

It is common for VOCYL to run a uniquely themed annual fundraiser. They’ve held talent shows, hosted tables at community events, and one year they held their own prom with a focus on them.

Among the new book’s stories are some that have been told before, such as Jenna Proudlove, who came to Victoria more than a decade ago and sought a more inclusive community than what was offered. She not only helped start VOCYL but has engaged in many community efforts including the Victoria Youth Council and many organizations prior to her arrival here.

Kim Scott’s story has been told before too. Scott is an accomplished rider with Canada’s national para dressage team. When Scott collapsed in high school, prior to her diagnosis of cerebal palsy,  students called her names instead of showing compassion.

But mostly, the book introduces new stories such as Genevieve Chandler’s. An accomplished artist and Oak Bay High graduate, Chandler has hosted an art show at the University of Victoria.

“I’m part Aspergers and part ordinary,” says the Peppers Foods employee. “Even before I came to Victoria and joined VOCYL I thought a lot about inclusion.

“I always wanted everything to be positive, full of generosity, support and inclusion. It was like that sometime but other times students were selfish and thought they were better than other people. It made me feel sad and lonely. No one seemed to care how I felt, and it hurt.

“I couldn’t be happier that I have joined VOCYL. It made my wishes come true. At VOCYL we treat each other (respectfully) and make everything positive, caring, supportive and inclusive.”

reporter@saanichnews.com