Youth Peer

the small program with a big heart

Youth Peer is a project that hums. Visiting one of the sessions that take place every weekday from 3:00 to 6:00 is like stepping into a large, beautifully-functional family. For youth clients, volunteers, university students, junior and senior staff, management partners and administrators, it is simply an enriching place to be. YPPLogo2013

To sum up in a sentence what can truly only be experienced, Youth Peer provides a supportive place for at-risk youth, ages 9 – 18, to be tutored and mentored by volunteers who are close to their age.

It is this relationship—youth and peer mentor—that sparks the magic that happens here. After an hour of one-on-one tutoring, the magic continues into the second hour with social mentoring, guitar instruction, creative art projects, educational games and nutritious snacks.

Socializing with university and high school mentors, staff and other youth is a big part of the learning process for clients. Young people want to come back because they know they are welcomed and accepted unconditionally as “part of the family.”

lighthouse icon INFORMATION

free after-school peer tutoring/mentoring, with art and music instruction
students ages 9 – 18, referred by a partner agency
3-6 PM, Monday – Friday
late September – early June
Downstairs at the
Sydney Adult High School
290 Whitney Avenue
Sydney, NS
Peggy Gordon, Director
902 539-8228
902 539-7407 (fax)

Supervisor: Barry Waldman

Barry serves, on a volunteer basis, as the overall administrator of the program, managing financial and funding issues as well as supervising senior staff and directing the scope and direction of the program.

Director: Peggy Gordon


Peggy, new to Youth Peer in September 2015, manages the day-to-day operation of Youth Peer, including staff, volunteers, Management Team meetings, and youth client issues.
Peggy came to us with stellar commendations for her thirteen years of experience working closely with high-risk youth. That, along with her positive energy, compassion, and organizational skills make her an extraordinarily effective administrator.

Each September, the Director and Volunteers Coordinator organize another year of tutor/mentor matches.

Volunteers Coordinator:
Frances Burton

Frances Burton Frances, a volunteer tutor-mentor for YPP from high school through university and a long-time Program Assistant, was hired in January 2016 as Volunteers Coordinator. She is in charge of recruiting volunteer tutor/mentors from local high schools, NS Community College and Cape Breton University–though many return from year-to-year.

Early in the school year, volunteer orientation and training are provided. At the same time, student-clients are being interviewed, scheduled and matched with their volunteer tutor/mentor.

All the students who come to Youth Peer are referred by one of the 25+ Management Team partner agencies. These agencies span the range of social, health and educational services for youth in the area, so it is likely that any young person who needs the help of Youth Peer will be able to get it.

There is no charge for Youth Peer services. Peggy interviews each referral and his or her parent/guardian individually. The kids are invited to come—never pressured—and they, and their caregivers, are asked to sign simple statements of Freedoms and Expectations which outline the guidelines governing youth, caregivers and staff responsibilities. Behavioural problems at the centre are extremely rare.

By late September/early October, the tutoring matches are beginning. They take place every week day from 4 to 6 pm in a suite of rooms downstairs in the Sydney Adult High School—an in-kind contribution of space donated to EPIC and Youth Peer by the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. This is no “drop-in” centre, as all students are carefully matched with “their” volunteer and asked to come on a specific day that is appropriate to their age and needs.

Program Assistants

In addition to Peggy and Frances, the staff includes part-time Assistants whose job it is to make sure that the sessions run smoothly. For the 2015-2016 school year, the capable team of assistants are: Brandy MacInnis, Kelsey MacNeil, Ryan Hepditch, Destiny Green and Kaleigh Simpson.

Brandy MacInnis-smKelsey_MacNeilRyan HepditchDestiny GreenKaleighSimpson

With Frances as their immediate supervisor, they make reminder calls, prepare snacks, assist the volunteers, fill in when necessary, and generate a fun, supportive atmosphere. Youth Peer has been lucky to find wonderful assistants from the ranks of our loyal and capable volunteers. Each winter a new batch of back-up Program Assistants are trained.

Creative Arts Instructors

Susanne Donovan, art instructor Emile Conn, guitar instructor

Also on staff, meet Creative Arts Instructor, Susanne Donovan and Guitar Instructor, Emile Conn who further the student’s education, enrichment and exposure to the arts.

Wrap-Around Educational Support

Lynne O’Neill and Bernadette Hollohan are the Youth Peer Co-Educators. Lynne_ONeillBernadette_Hollohan

Lynne and Bernie are retired teachers with experience in working with schools and students. Their job is to help selected students by providing wrap-around support. This is accomplished by communicating with student, tutor, YPP staff, parents, guardians, teachers, school personnel and representatives of other appropriate community agencies in order to enhance positive interactions and develop sustainable strategies for the on-going support and ultimate success of any targeted student.

If you are a high school or university-aged student in the Cape Breton area and would like to be a volunteer with Youth Peer, please call Peggy at 902 539-8228 or email:


Logo -Breakthrough_tiny
Breakthrough is an innovative Tuesday evening program for current and former Youth Peer participants ages 14 – 30 who volunteer to discuss their experiences with crisis and strategies of resiliency. The sessions are expertly facilitated by former Youth Peer Co-Director Delores Feltmate along with multi-skilled volunteers. The overall goal is to increase the self-esteem and social adaptiveness of youth participants who have experienced great challenges in life and who want to help other youth and marginalized groups to overcome similar obstacles. Visit our Breakthrough page here.

Parents PEACE Program

The Parents PEACE Program, on-going since 2004, is an important part of Youth Peer — so important that it merits its own page. Go here to read all about our evening parenting group facilitated by Ann McPhee.
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lighthouse icon THE MAGIC

One-on-one academic tutoring takes place during the first hour of the sessions. The matched student/tutor quietly work on whatever that client most needs. one-on-one attentionTutors are trained to respond not only to the academic needs of the client, but also to their emotional state—not as a therapist—but as a friend. In other words, if the youth is having a bad day and can’t concentrate on math, the tutor is empowered to switch to something more suitable and less stressful for that day. At Youth Peer, the belief is—and experience has shown—that the student benefits more from the attention and demonstrated caring of their peer mentor than from a sole focus on academics. Having said that, the rooms during that first hour are calm and organized. The youth clients are generally only too happy to work quietly with their tutor, one-on-one.

the first hour is for tutoring

The second hour is for:



Guitar Instruction

Jam Session


face masks


art houses


paper mache




game time

active games



social time

fun time


learning together

all ages getting together


birthdays are important

birthday grab

blowing out the candles



look! new socks for my birthday

See photos and get information about the
Volunteers of Youth Peer

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Ten Years of Memories

photo wall


original ‘bird/book’ Youth Peer logo by Blake MacLean, former volunteer.
“The little program with a big heart” is a quote from a Volunteer Canada online article about the Youth Peer Transformation project; written Spring, 2004; Volunteer Canada was one of the funders during the 2003-2004 year. More information on EPIC funding.

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