Meet Na’siya and Ja’sayah

How a United Way–supported youth program helped two shy sisters explore their passions

Saint George’s YouthNet is a United Way–funded program founded in 1998, which provides free programming to kids growing up in or near Uniacke Square. When sisters Na’siyah and Ja’sayah walked into Saint George’s for their first YouthNet experiences in Grade 2, they were typical kids. They were eager and excited, but shy of being around so many new faces.

What a difference a few years makes.

“We do cooking, gym games, dance and drama camp, science camp, business camp, hiking and junior camping,” says Na’siya. Ja’saya nods in agreement. “Dance camp, that’s my favourite.”

YouthNet offers a smorgasbord of activities: after-school and summer camps, dance and drama, cooking and camping, and plenty more. Its informal mantra is “We discover talent. We make friends. And we inspire dreams.”

Many of the kids participating here might never otherwise get the chance to try their hand at so many activities. And, Na’siyah and Ja’sayah, haven’t let any of it go to waste, taking part in every single program YouthNet offers.

New skills, positive experiences

“You get to learn a lot of new things you’ve never done before,” says Na’siyah. For her, that includes a five-day hiking and camping trip at Cape Chignecto. She even earned a performance spot at 2019’s OBEY Convention, an annual experimental-music festival in Halifax, thanks to her improved dance skills. With so many positive experiences behind her, she plans to become a “Junior Leader” in the program next year.

Ja’sayah, for her part, has become a wizard in the kitchen. She also loves the group games, dance and performance components of YouthNet.

The girls’ mother, Natasha, credits YouthNet with helping bring her daughters out of their shells and open them to new friends, new possibilities, and new interests. “The whole program is amazing,” she says. It’s even helped them work out better routines for their TikTok dance videos — the girls are convinced that one of these days, they’ll go viral. “Their account is private,” says Natasha, “but don’t tell them that.”