Highbanks Independent Living for Parenting Youth Society
Our Story Why We Exist
Kate is one of 500 teenagers who give birth in Calgary every year.
Kate grew up surrounded by poverty and abuse. She was so mistrustful of her guardians that she kept her pregnancy a secret until that Christmas Eve, when as a confused and scared 16-year-old she lay in a cold bathtub and gave birth to her son Noah. She cut the umbilical cord with kitchen scissors, wrapped Noah in a towel and tried to clean herself up. Thankfully she texted a friend and that friend called an ambulance.
But that isn’t the worst part – when she left the hospital the next day she was alone, penniless and had nowhere for her and Noah to sleep. Fortunately, she found hope at Highbanks.
We moved Kate and Noah into a furnished two-bedroom apartment and in two years she completed high school and received a scholarship to Mount Royal University.
Kate now has a fulfilling job in her field as a Director of Marketing for a Calgary based company. As a young woman who credits Highbanks for her success she, and our 70 graduates like Kate, tell us that Highbanks changed the trajectory of their life and improved lives of their children.
To read more stories of how Highbanks has helped families, see our website.
Our Impact What We Do
Of the 500+ teens who give birth in Calgary every year, some have the support of families to help them with the challenge of raising a child; many have no one. On top of this, Calgary currently has 300 homeless youth as well as 200 children.
Teen mothers face isolation, poverty, low rates of education and low employment. The young women who reach out to Highbanks are on the verge of homelessness or are leaving stressful our abusive homes and are in desperate need of housing, critical life skills and positive role models.
Highbanks is that safe place that provides a home, a community and an opportunity for education. Highbanks is committed to helping young mothers and children realize their potential so they can become educated, confident, self-sufficient parents raising healthy, happy children.
Of our 70 alumnae:
- All but two have finished high school
- 98% have kept custody of their child
- 40% have graduated from post-secondary and are now working as entrepreneurs, industry workers, nurses, social workers and managers
- 28% are currently enrolled in post-secondary
- 25% own their own home and 62% pay market rent
The founder of Highbanks, Bette Mitchell, choose the word Highbanks–the name of her parents' cottage growing up. Highbanks represents comfort, home, safety and being out of the water, safe and dry. Highbanks provides security and a safer, brighter place for women and children. Young single mothers, age 16-24, are able to look forward to what is ahead with peace of mind, enabling them to plan the direction in which to go from here, within a supportive community, knowing that they are safe from what was left behind.
Our Programs How We Do It
Initially, each young mother (between 16-24) who comes to Highbanks is provided with a furnished two-bedroom apartment in the building that we own, which houses our program and office space. For 13 years we have been a sustainable social enterprise–we own our own building! Our commercial tenants, Dairy Lane and Velvet Style, provide 20 per cent of our annual revenue. Highbanks does not receive any government funding. It is a peer-support community in which staff, peers and volunteers play a daily role in the life of the young mother and child.
All residents must enroll in formal education and participate in Highbanks programs:
- Parenting Skills Programs: teaching early childhood development tools and strategies that brings mothers together to learn from each other.
- Trauma Therapy: to help teenagers like Kate deal with systematic abuse and toxic stress by a registered psychologist who provides services on a referral basis.
- Life Skills: a 'Life-Wheel' model of coaching to help young women identify and work towards goals in areas such as parenting, finance, education, emotion, cooking and nutrition and healthy relationships
In addition to these programs, we support young mothers to achieve independence by offering financial support to get a driver's license, attend recreation activities, do their taxes, write a will, etc. Importantly we also require that they all attend school full-time so that they complete high school and create opportunities to attend post-secondary.
Our Requests What You Can Do
Highbanks Society succeeds because of great partnerships and we need you!
Donation Wish List (Please call us as 403-521-0082 prior to drop-off):
- Highbanks needs technology! We operate using Apple products and right now we need three new desktop computers as ours are over 10 years old and not able to meet our needs. We are losing productivity with unreliable computers. iphones and macbooks are also welcome.
- Diapers for 1- 2 year olds and baby safety locks
- Essential oils
- Kitchenware: pots and pans, knives, food containers and cutlery
- Linens: towels, dish cloths, bedding and curtains
- Appliances: mini crockpots, toasters and a Vitamix blender
- Bus passes/tickets
- Giftcards to Costco, Ikea and for cleaning services
- Movie passes
Volunteer with Highbanks: Every week we need support from volunteers for childcare (Monday and Thursday 5:30-8:30pm), cleaning and cooking. We also need volunteers for our casino fundraiser and for many other positions. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Catherine at Catherine@HighbanksSociety.ca.
Donate: Highbanks Society gratefully accepts donations to support programming, special activities and operations. We need to maintain our residence so that families have a safe place to live.
Become a Board Member: We are actively recruiting for the Board of Directors. Required skills include: fundraising, financial management, strategic design, communications, program design and leadership. If you are interested in joining our Board, please contact Catherine at Catherine@HighbanksSociety.ca.
Cook a Program Dinner: We are now looking for volunteers to cook dinners for our families once a month on a Thursday. This is a fun opportunity to give back to your community while testing your culinary skills! By providing a meal for up to eight people you allow residents to have a healthy meal before their #BestYou program so they have the energy to focus on their goals. If you are interested in volunteering in this capacity, please contact Catherine at Catherine@HighbanksSociety.ca.
Thank you Calgary for supporting those in need. Highbanks will ensure that the gifts you give will have a lasting impact.