Teenagers and young adults go through an often bewildering period of emotional, intellectual and physical growth as they go through the process of fleshing out their personalities, values and ambitions. As they mature, their frequently overly-sensitive egos swim through a sea of diverse belief systems, attitudes, discourse and information. Prone to self-doubt and occasional arrogance, it’s a precarious period, where different choices can have an enormous impact on their lives.

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What’s astonishing is the level of pressure they face to make life choices at a time when their brains have not yet fully formed. Scientists now know that the frontal cortex – the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act – develops later and changes and matures well into adulthood. Based on research, adolescents are more likely to act on impulse, misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions, and get involved in dangerous or risky behaviour.

Adolescents are easily influenced and sometimes lack healthy role models and support – it isn’t hard to imagine how they might be led astray. You can most certainly think of a few individuals from your life that went down that road, and once that road is taken, it’s hard for people to get back on track without help and support.

The Blake Boultbee Youth Outreach Service (BBYOS) was established in 1989 and has been serving at-risk youth and their families in southeast Toronto ever since. BBYOS is a key agency in the area, providing youth between the ages of 12 and 25 with long-term and intensive counselling, therapy and life-skills training. The objective at BBYOS is to prevent those young people, walking that fine-line between good and bad behaviour, from getting into trouble with the law, drugs, alcohol and their peers. They help those who are at risk of becoming in conflict with the law, of prematurely ending their education, of not reaching their potential, and of securing fulfilling employment in life. BBYOS exists to help young people turn their lives around and reach their potential as citizens.

Given today’s highly connected and media-rich society, it’s essential for BBYOS to be present and active in areas where youth spend their time. For that to be the case, their digital infrastructure needs a tech boost, so their services can have a wider reach. Rod Cohen, the Executive Director/Psychotherapist at BBYOS is excited about this prospect:

“The idea of having a team of coding wizards fire up their brains for a weekend, so they can come up with something that will help us out in any way, is such a wonderful concept and great opportunity. So far, the ideas that have come out of the process are exciting and I can only see us coming out as big winners and making many new friends that will contribute to making our little organization better and more efficient.”

At Gift the Code, BBYOS is presenting the following challenges:

  1. Create a solution that improves our ability to find and leverage donors.
  2. Create an organizational tool that will help our volunteers efficiently and resourcefully manage their commitment to Blake Boultbee.
  3. Create a solution that will allow us to easily communicate and promote our services to at-risk youth and their families.
  4. Create a solution that will enable us to continuously update our databases.

Interested in tackling one of these challenges?

This is our last post about a charity participating at Gift the Code. If you’re interested in learning more about the other charities, visit giftthecode.ca/blog/ for more info. Next week, we’ll share a post with information about the judging process at Gift the Code and a post about preparing for the Gift the Code Hackathon!