Impact Stories

Inspiring inclusion – Celebrating International Women’s Day with United Way BC Future Leaders

As a young person, the world of work, post-secondary education and life can seem daunting. This can be especially true for young women. For Hallie, Amber and Sara a United Way BC program made them feel included and supported – real gamechangers as they enter adulthood. 

United Way BC Future Leaders Program, aimed at youth 15-29, fosters confidence by providing the training and tools for lifelong success. Through paid or volunteer internships, often with United Way BC School’s Out, Future Leaders helps youth gain valuable work experience, grow leadership skills, and develop social networks. By fostering skills like conflict resolution and money management, the Future Leaders program is a crucial steppingstone for young people.  

“Supporting the United Way BC’s Future Leaders program isn’t just about investing in youth – almost 70% of program participants identify as female. Supporting Future Leaders is a powerful pledge to sculpt a future in British Columbia where female empowerment transcends limits. Through providing valuable paid work experiences and crucial skills, we are nurturing a generation of women who are blazing their trails to success and shattering barriers on International Women’s Day and beyond,” says Trisha Dulku, Strategic Initiatives Manager for Children and Youth at United Way BC. 

In honour of International Women’s Day and this year’s theme: inspire inclusion, we’re sharing the stories of three remarkable Future Leaders program participants who are examples of how important inclusion is, and, why it matters.  

Hallie – supporting discovery

After getting involved with the Future Leaders program run by Learning Disabilities Society (LDS) RISE Program in Vancouver, Hallie gained work experience in administrative skills at the learning centre and as a program assistant with the Early RISErs team. Between 5-15 hours a week, she greeted visitors, answered phones, created learning materials, prepared snacks and welcomed preschool-aged children and their families. She built professional skills and honed her interpersonal and social media skills. And that was just the beginning, from there she got the time-honored summer job of flipping burgers at Playland and is now attending Douglas College. She recounts the difference the Future Leaders program made for her as an autistic teen with ADHD and learning differences. 

“Being a Future Leader at LDS helped me to learn and grow both emotionally and intellectually. Before attending Future Leaders, I didn’t know that much at all when it came to composing cover letters and resumes. After attending though, my knowledge further expanded and I have since gained more experience putting together the documents needed for jobs,” says Hallie. 

“One huge thing that I learned from my experience working was that I enjoyed doing office work. In fact, getting that work experience helped me consider going to school at Douglas College and after taking the food services program, I want to become an administrative assistant.”  

Hallie will enroll in the food services certificate program in September. The Learning Disabilities Society is a United Way BC Community Partner and has run a Future Leaders program for two years. 

Amber – forging economic empowerment 

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Surrey Newton youth Amber took part in a Future Leaders Financial Literacy program offered through United Way BC Community Partner Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS). As a newcomer to Canada, Amber wanted to focus on financial literacy so she could understand and manage her finances in a new country. The program empowers participants to make informed financial decisions, cultivate responsible money management habits, and ultimately, take charge of their financial futures. Along with basic banking and budgeting skills, Amber also learned about identity theft and fraud prevention.  

“I had a great experience in Future Leaders. I really learned a lot during the financial literacy workshops. Both money and knowledge pay great interest, as I got to know from different banks when they came and did presentations about managing money in Canada. I was able to learn about budgeting and that is helping me out at my administrative job now at the pharmacy.” 

“Financial literacy is very important and interesting to me…Everyone should join this program. It helped me make friends and be less lonely and we still have a WhatsApp group and talk all the time.” 

Sara – supporting access to education 

Eighteen-year-old Surrey Guildford resident Sara was involved with the Future Leaders program at UMOJA Compassion Society for three years. Participating in the program helped her understand the value of setting goals and achieving them.  

“The Future Leaders Program offered me a safe space to grow and learn. I loved how welcoming it is to be there and how it gives youth like me a safe place to hang out after school. Ever since my first day and session, I never felt like a stranger. Rather, I always felt that I was part of a family at the Future Leaders Program. Because of my experience with the Future Leaders Program, I have obtained a scholarship from UMOJA. This motivates me every day to work harder and get good grades. I thank the Future Leaders Program for it has offered me great opportunities I would have never dreamed of.” 

Sara is now studying Psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and plans to become a clinical counsellor. 

Though universally accessible, Future Leaders mainly works with newcomer and Indigenous youth and youth with disabilities. Since 2018, almost 3,800 youth have participated in the program. United Way BC Future Leaders programs run in Thompson Nicola Cariboo, Southern Interior, and Lower Mainland regions. 

Learn more about Future Leaders here: Future Leaders Program | United Way British Columbia (