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Zero Ceiling: A journey to the top

Eight-year-old program for disadvantaged youth making a difference in people's lives

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Today Hack is a board member and assists with training peer mentors, advising on how to improve the programs, and identifying and selecting program participants. This last task, identifying "suitable" program participants, can be difficult. Because each case is unique, Zero Ceiling does not have a specific criterion for applicants, other than that applicants must be referred through an agency that has known them for some time.

Hack is an advocate for the "harder cases" – those who are living on the streets, own virtually nothing, have little or no contact with family, and have experienced serious substance addictions. He believes that these are the youth who really need Zero Ceiling – they have hit rock bottom and have nowhere to go but up.

The harder cases certainly provide challenges for Zero Ceiling and not all participants have made it through the program successfully. But it is the harder cases and the occasional failure that allow Zero Ceiling to learn and grow. Over the years these challenges have led to the addition of support networks such as housing advisors and the peer mentorship program, which in turn have increased the likelihood of success for future program participants.

While Zero Ceiling is proud of its successes, the organization isn’t going to rest on its laurels. This year the board has focused discussions on how to grow the organization. Such discussions are leading towards the creation of new programs as well as working to ensure that disadvantaged youth closer to home (within the Sea to Sky corridor) are also able to access the programs. The board recognizes that while the basis of the organization’s programs is solid, not all at-risk youth are interested in becoming snowboard instructors. As such, the board has been working to develop a parallel program that would allow youth the opportunity to gain employment opportunities in other streams, such as retail, hospitality, maintenance or administration.

Similarly, the Day Visit program has expanded to a year-round schedule incorporating summer sports. This past summer youth participated in mountain biking at Whistler-Blackcomb’s Bike Park and went zip-trekking.

Since its first year of operations in 1997, Zero Ceiling has hosted more than 1,000 youth in its programs.