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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Apprentice helps turn lives around

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

Just a few years ago, Iris Paguyo was headed down the wrong path and getting into trouble at home and at school.

Today, she is helping others turn their lives around as a child and youth worker apprentice.

"Somebody managed to knock some sense into me," says Paguyo, a Grade 12 student at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute in Toronto.
Grade 12 student Iris Paguyo turned her own life around. Now, as a child and youth worker apprentice, she is making a real difference in other troubled youth's lives.

"I was 13 years old and for some reason started going to church. The youth pastor wouldn't give up on me, no matter what I did ... I looked at my future and decided to work with kids who were having trouble and help them think about the choices they're making."

Paguyo, 18, completed two co-op placements, one at an elementary school and the other at a school-based daycare. She worked with several students who had behavioural problems and she organized activities at the daycare.

Paguyo learned about the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) through a co-op course and began her apprenticeship in February. She landed a job at Youth Assisting Youth (, a one-to-one peer-mentoring group for children aged six to 15.

By the time she graduates in June, Paguyo will have earned credits toward her high school diploma, she will have begun accumulating hours towards certification in her chosen trade and she will have several college courses under her belt.

Work experience is invaluable, says co-op teacher Karen Ford. "It's a real eye opener. When you're submerged in the work world like Iris is, you get a true flavour of what it's going to be like to work full time in that career."

The experience reinforces the importance of education, believes Ford.

"It's an opportunity for students to take their learning and put it to use," she says. "Often, they think what they're learning in the classroom has no relevance in the work world. This shows them how important it is."
  • A child and youth worker encourages change in children and youth who are experiencing a range of learning, social, emotional or behavioural changes in their lives.
  • These specialists work in schools or hospitals or in residential, institutional or community-based settings.
  • Apprenticeship training is recommended for people wanting to work in this trade.
  • It typically takes three to four years to complete an apprenticeship.
  • Visit the Ministry of Colleges, Training and Universities at

  • According to the Ministry of Education, work experience and courses in both English and Communications in the World of Business and Technology will put students on the right track for a child and youth worker apprenticeship.

    To be successful in this trade, you need communications, problem-solving and organizational skills.

    Peguya demonstrates many of those skills. "She has a very dynamic personality and within just a few months, has a really good grasp of our program," says Youth Assisting Youth case co-ordinator Ava Jones.

    Her tasks include intake assessments, determining the needs of children and their families, and matching children to mentors. She also helps with school presentations.

    "To see someone like Iris wanting to help other young people lets us know we're having an impact," Jones says. "She's helping her peers help themselves and is an example of what you can do when you're focused and driven."

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