Youth Peer

Please bear with us; this page is under construction!
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-Marsh


Peggy manages the day-to-day operation of Youth Peer including staff, volunteers, Management Team meetings, intakes, evaluation, parent interviews, and youth client issues. With years of experience working with high risk youth, Peggy thrives in the YPP environment. As well, she fosters the centre’s caring and can-do atmosphere with her positive energy, compassion, and organizational skills. We are lucky to have such an extraordinarily effective administrator.

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

Volunteers Coordinator:
Kelsey MacNeil

Kelsey, a long-time volunteer tutor-mentor for YPP and lead Program Assistant, stepped in to this job in January 2018 when Fran Burton went on maternity leave. Kelsey 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, 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 Kelsey, the staff includes part-time Assistants whose job it is to make sure that the sessions run smoothly. In 2018, the capable team of assistants are: Jenna Tobin in the lead role five afternoons a week and who is assisted each day by one of the following: Destiny Green, Shauna Burke, Kerry Landry, and Michelle Anderson and Emma MacIntyre. [photos coming soon]

Victoria Smith is serving as Program Assistant for our new Outreach Program. [page under construction]

With Kelsey as their immediate supervisor, our assistants prepare snacks, assist the volunteers, fill in when necessary, and always generate a fun, supportive, but structured atmosphere. Youth Peer has been lucky to find wonderful assistants from the ranks of our loyal and capable volunteers. Twice each school year a new batch of back-up Program Assistants are trained.

Creative Arts Instructors

Susanne Donovan, art instructorEmile 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

Debbie Balcom is the Youth Peer Educator.
Debbie is a retired teacher with years of experience. Her 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.

The Sessions

One-on-one academic tutoring takes place during the first hour. The matched student/tutor quietly work on whatever that client most needs. Tutors 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 second half of the sessions are for mentoring. The volunteers stay with their student for nutritional snacks and a variety of fun activities. This increases the bond between them and benefits the students social-emotional growth.

There are amazing benefits to the volunteers as well.

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:


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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