Six Vancouver street youth offered second chance 

Whistler-based charity Zero Ceiling helps youth find their way

Holding his hands up with his fingers tightly crossed, 21-year-old Tyler is hoping with everything he’s got for the chance to start a new chapter in his young life.

He has just come from an interview with Adam Schell, director of Whistler-Blackcomb Snowboard School, and for the time being at least, the future is out of his hands. All there is left to do now is wait... and hope.

"You can’t see it," grinned Tyler "but I’m crossing my toes too."

For Tyler and five other youths from Vancouver there’s a lot riding on this job interview, which took place last Sunday.

Only six days before the interview Tyler was living on Vancouver’s streets. He spent a lot of time trying to get by but getting nowhere instead.

Then he heard about Zero Ceiling. The Whistler-based charity has been helping Vancouver street youth experience the thrill of the mountains for the past seven years.

The Snowboard Instructor Program brings street youth to Whistler for a week to learn how to snowboard. It ultimately gives them the chance to work at Whistler-Blackcomb as a snowboard instructor, if they pass the interview and evaluation.

"We expect them to come here and basically be able to pass a Whistler-Blackcomb company interview," said Schell.

"We make sure that they are prepared to pass any of the things that any of our regular employees would be doing."

The charity isn’t a Whistler-Blackcomb initiative, although the company, like many other local companies, supports their work with passes and gear and opportunities.

Instead, Zero Ceiling is the brainchild of pro-skier Chris Winter.

Years ago Winter hoped to spread the magic of the mountains that had moulded his own life and the charity evolved from that idea.

"Skiing and the mountains have pretty much shaped me and given me every single opportunity I’ve had in life, thanks to my parents of course," said Winter.

"So we’re just taking that formula and sharing it with other people."

Before the six youths could come to Whistler though they had to prove to Robin Bennewith, a First Nations Liaison at Dusk to Dawn, that they were ready to get a job and handle the responsibility of working life.

Dusk to Dawn is a youth resource drop in centre in Vancouver that serves street youth from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. They can get food and a shower there, as well as counselling services.

Bennewith screened roughly 17 applicants for the Zero Ceiling program.

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