Engaging heads, hearts and hands

ATB challenges 101 students to create meaningful, lasting change—from a distance.

By ATB Financial 3 August 2021 4 min read

Each summer brings a new graduating class of students to ATB Financial for the ATB 101 program.  This year, we’re thrilled to welcome fifty-three ATB 101 students to teams across the organization. Over their summer work term, students will be engaged in the day-to-day operations of ATB and work together in groups on special community projects.

After the program underwent a big shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 students have learned to adapt to their new roles in a fully digital experience. The traditional capstone project, in which students would research, develop and present solutions for ATB in various areas of the business, also shifted to focus on giving back to the community. 

“The program is designed to engage heads, hearts and hands,” says Louis Martyres, senior manager of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at ATB. “The learning curriculum is designed to engage the mind, while the community project is focused on using hearts and hands to make a meaningful impact.”

This year, the students are working to find and implement solutions for gaps faced by three organizations that empower Indigenous youth. The student groups will be working with Spirit North, the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association and the Inner City Youth Development Association.


The organizations and challenges they face

Spirit North is a national charitable organization that uses land-based activities to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous youth, empowering them to become unstoppable in sport, school and life. As Spirit North expands, their goal is to provide sport and play programs in all four seasons. As a result, many programs that fall outside school hours and the school year—such as after-school programs, summer camps and weekend activities—pose a unique challenge: a need for transportation. 

The ATB 101 student group working with Spirit North are investigating ways to transport participants to and from their programs in an efficient, cost-effective and sustainable way.

The Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association (ANFCA) supports active member Friendship Centres who, through program and service delivery, engage with and improve quality of life for urban Indigenous people. They also work to connect youth and Elders. Elders are a significant source of cultural knowledge and community support for youth, but this past year has significantly affected cultural knowledge transmission. 

The students working with the ANFCA are finding ways to increase Elder engagement and access to technology and technological knowledge. The ANFCA hopes the students can help develop culturally relevant ways to give Elders the necessary digital skills to share their knowledge with their communities.

Under the umbrella of the Inner City Youth Development Association (ICYDA), the Inner City Youth Engagement Program and Inner City High School are dedicated to providing life-changing opportunities to Edmonton’s marginalized Indigenous and other urban youth. 

“Most youth in our programs have a history of fighting the damages of dysfunctional socialization that often includes a negative school history, contact with the justice system and childcare system, and extreme poverty,” says Joe Cloutier, chief operating officer, and Nikolai Linden, executive director of ICYDA. The ICYDA’s approach is meant to reach youth at street level, provide the support required to achieve a high school diploma and assist them in creating their own path to a bright future.

There are two ATB 101 student groups working with the ICYDA. One group is researching programs from around the world that support marginalized youth in urban areas. The students will use this research to make recommendations intended to help grow the ICYDA’s program and the system of support that’s in place for their students.

The ICYDA is also looking to increase their efforts around recruitment, which has typically been done through word of mouth. The second group of ATB 101 students will help ICYDA expand their marketing strategy. 


Honouring our commitment to truth and reconciliation

These four projects require students to stretch their critical thinking skills and consider their personal responsibility in truth and reconciliation. The four-month program will focus on learning about Indigenous culture and history,  while providing opportunities for students to build relationships with Indigenous Peoples and communities. All students will take ATB’s Indigenous Cultural Awareness course as well as the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada course by the end of the summer. ATB Financial is committed to honouring and implementing the Truth & Reconciliation Call to Action #92. These partnerships and community projects with Spirit North, ANFCA and ICYDA are one small step in our commitment. 

Follow along with the ATB 101 students and the organizations they’re working alongside. We’ll be sharing updates to the projects and more information on Spirit North, the ANFCA and the ICYDA over the next few weeks.


Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.

Learn more about the ATB 101 Student program.

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