A Helping Hand from One Youth to Another: An Interview with Youth Organization President Bonnie Chin
The world today may seem bleak, even for a high school student such as myself—but I hold out hope. Every new generation, the world gets brighter. Every new generation, there is more hope for the future. Hope for change, enlightenment, and a better world. But the people of our future don’t just one day show up and know how to fix everything—it’s all part of a bigger process. The process of supporting and nurturing creativity, curiosity, and personal development.
Bonnie Chin is an 18 year-old student from Ottawa, Ontario, in her first year at the University of Waterloo studying computer science. She is a design and front-end development intern at Harled, and despite her young age, she’s also the standing president of Youth Helping Youth Ontario (YHYO). YHYO is a youth-led organization in Ontario aimed to provide people a platform to share and find youth enrichment opportunities.
“Youth Helping Youth Ontario at its core is a hub of opportunities”
I’ve only known Bonnie personally for a very short time, but I’ve come to know her as an inspiring figure to many, and someone I truly look up to. As the president of YHYO, she oversees 4 departments: design, advertising & social media, research & communications, and ambassadors. “Youth Helping Youth Ontario at its core is a hub of opportunities,” she explained. The organization is an Instagram-based non-profit, and a subsidiary of the larger, original organization, Youth Helping Youth (YHY). It shares posts and stories of different youth enrichment opportunities available for students in Ontario, as well as weekly advice and feature posts that highlight tips for students.
YHYO first began as a wish to help other youth, from youth. Two high school students, Hafeez Hussein and Avery Lin, approached the original YHY members at the BC branch that they had met through a summer enrichment program called SHAD. Bonnie had originally wanted to join because she noticed that many students were unaware of the opportunities around them, and she wanted to help them discover those chances to learn, gain experience, and grow as a person. She wanted to “even the playing field”, so to speak. Although she’d only joined a few months after YHYO’s launch, she has been heavily involved with it ever since.
An important part of bringing about success to the organization was understanding its audience: the students. What do they want? What are they looking for? What appeals to them? Those were questions that Bonnie asked. She told me that the organization was really built through trial and error, and a lot of learning along the way.
When I asked Bonnie how her personal life influenced the way she ran YHYO, the answer I got was not surprising, as I’d experienced her work first-hand. As I first joined YHYO on their design team in June after applying on a whim, I was readily expecting to be thrown into a fast-paced and serious environment. However, that was certainly not the case. As she told me in our interview, she’d had a hard time being vocal about her own ideas in the past, and really struggled with speaking up in fear of offending someone or having her ideas looked down upon. “So when deciding on what kind of team culture I wanted for YHYO I wanted to make sure that no one felt that way,” she said. “I want to make sure everyone feels involved so we don’t miss out on any amazing ideas.”
Bonnie frequently pushes the idea no one knows what they’re doing 100% of the time, even those who are supposed to lead you. In the meetings I’ve attended, she stresses that everything is a learning process, and that even she herself will make mistakes sometimes. To me, that was a pretty important part about discovering what made an organization run successfully. It’s the connection between all the members, and the camaraderie and friendships that are nurtured through working together, sharing ideas, and understanding that no one is above any other person. The way Bonnie explained how she ran YHYO brought about a sense of clarity in terms of how to smoothly run organizations, and it depends on trust, passion, and kindness.
To the people thinking about starting youth organizations themselves, these are valuable lessons to learn. Bonnie went on to touch on yet another part about running these organizations that really is the basis of it all. “A big part of being a leader is that you sort of set the tone for what the culture of your organization is,” she expressed. Not only does making your team feel welcomed and a part of something bigger promote the organization’s efficiency and atmosphere, but as a result, their work with this mindset fuels it to reflect upon all those that interact with the organization’s platform. Whether they’re students seeking opportunities, leaders sharing their own opportunities, or business partners, that culture of charity and compassion will reach them.
Tracing the quest to start an organization back to its core, it all starts with solving a need. Along with that key factor, Bonnie outlines a few more that are vital in building an organization up from the ground. One of the major ones is making sure your organization has a different or new approach to solving that need. For example, it’s amazing that you want to start an organization that hosts webinars Q&A webinars for prospective computer science students, but there may be 10 or more organizations doing the exact same thing. It’s important to set yours apart from others’. Finally, she highlights organization—long term and short term plans and goals with definitive deadlines—as well as communication and a welcoming culture, as previously mentioned.
“She’s one of the most compassionate, hardworking, creative and reflective people I know. She’s so committed to impacting youth, has overcome so many obstacles in running her organization that encourage me to persevere with YHYO.”
As I discovered more about her journey, Bonnie mentioned what inspired and motivated her to continue her work at YHYO. It was a combination of knowing its potential, as well as seeing the amazing work done by others around her. As a subsidiary of YHY, Bonnie was able to have a look at what her organization could be like by seeing the things that the BC branch was capable of doing. Moreover, one of her friends at SHAD, Ayana Siddiqui, also had an impact on her. “She’s one of the most compassionate, hardworking, creative and reflective people I know. She’s so committed to impacting youth, has overcome so many obstacles in running her organization that encourage me to persevere with YHYO.”
As the organization continues to grow, I asked Bonnie for her goals and next steps for the organization. She articulated that she wanted YHYO to really expand on the idea that it’s a hub of opportunities, such as running “Ask Me Anything” sessions, having giveaways, recruiting ambassadors, and hosting Instagram Lives with professionals. Another major goal was to obtain sponsorships from more companies and to partner with school boards and other major organizations.
In the end, Bonnie finds much pride in leading YHYO. She told me that “having the power to impact so many people” was a great honour, and she does a splendid job at it. She expressed her gratitude to not only her own team, but also to team over at the BC branch who’ve supported her along the way. With YHYO, she hopes to reach more youth to encourage them to reach their full potential. She herself is a spark for many students who will grow up to impact the world around them, and it would have started with her organization lending a hand to them in that very process of nurturing their progress both personally and professionally.