RISE and Shine: An Update on YWCA Hamilton’s RISE Collective

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Ready to RISE? YWCA Hamilton is excited to re-launch the RISE Collective, a youth-led collective that centres and amplifies the voices of young women, non-binary, and gender fluid youth in Hamilton.

The purpose of the program is to create holistic and intentional programming for all youth that empowers and engages. The RISE Collective offers something for all youth looking to make change in their community.

We spoke with Rylee Wiersma, Youth Programs Coordinator, to tell us more about the new changes to the RISE Collective, and her hopes for the future of this program.

Rylee Wiersma
Rylee Wiersma, Youth Programs Coordinator

Not to start this off like a job interview, but could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Prior to joining the YWCA, I was at Big Brothers Big Sisters, where I worked on creating and supporting matches, and I headed up the team there as well. Before that, I briefly worked at a group home – my background is in social work. So that’s my work background.

In my personal life, I enjoy anything outdoors, all outdoors, anything. Hiking, camping, swimming, snowmobiling, all that stuff. That’s what I do in my day-to-day personal life, but I try to bring some of that into my programs as well, as much as possible. I try to incorporate mindfulness, bringing people into nature, and things like that.


What do you hope to bring to RISE?

I hope to bring my work style to RISE. My previous role was all about creating relationships, and fostering connections in communities, and especially creating supportive spaces for folks.

I’m also changing the program a bit to have some more structure. It’s going to be a 12-week program, and with each session we’re hoping to bring on more youth as it renews itself.

I’m hoping this change in structure will translate into the programming, and hopefully bring in new youth to the program as well.


Is there any programming or new workshops that you have in the works that you’re hoping to launch soon?

So as I mentioned, RISE will now be a 12-week program, still focused on the main themes of Reflect, Influence, Support, Empower, etc., and there will be three weeks dedicated to aspects of each letter of the RISE acronym.

For example, the first two weeks will be centered around the rest, reflect, recharge piece. And then we’ll bring in some “unstructured” sessions, which is where we would bring in some of those workshops, or if there’s youth-led initiatives, or something in particular that the youth really want to talk about. With every section there will be structured and unstructured programming, so it really keeps it open to what youth need and want.

I’m also looking to bring in that nature piece, there will be a session about mindfulness and connecting to nature as well.

I’ve laid it out so that each session will have a focus and a topic, and then activities that go along with it, while keeping it flexible to address the needs and wants of the youth.


What do you hope for the direction of RISE, or what do you hope for RISE to become going forward?

I hope from this new structure that RISE will become its own community. With the sessions that are more unstructured, I’m hoping previous participants will come to those workshops and make connections, and the group will build on itself.

I’m hoping this will also lead to youth-led initiatives, and for collaborations and mentorships between the different age groups – college students working with high school students, that sort of thing.

I want for the youth, after they’ve going through the program, to take everything they’ve learned and go out and use it, and stay connected to us, and connect with YWCA when they need some support.


What sort of person should join RISE?

I think anybody who wants to make a change in their community. If they see an issue that makes them angry, or they want to participate in the community but doesn’t know how to go about it. Or anybody who has already displayed leadership skills, or wants to build their leadership skills. Anybody who wants to come out of their shell, who’s a bit shy but wants to make connections with others

Those are the key things: community, leadership, activism, engagement- in the community or social issues, making connections. Those are the key focuses of the group.

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