Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth

We're the only non-profit solely dedicated to Calgary’s Aboriginal youth since its inception in 2001. Our programs and supports seek to transform the lives of the youth and empower them to initiate change in their city.

Aboriginal girl pictured smiling softlyOur Story Why We Exist

After my sister’s death, my family was broken. My mom and dad were no longer able to take care of my siblings and myself.

I remember feeling alone, isolated, and shifted from my collapsing family home to strangers and back again. Forced to leave my school, move and leave behind homes and friends, I was being forgotten. My empty hands grabbing, reaching, wanting to feel the way I felt before everything went wrong. I had been walking numbly and lost for a while.

Finally, my Aunt found me and enrolled me in school, took care of me, gave me love.

In my new school, I was told about a school program with USAY for Aboriginal kids. I was experiencing so many negative things in my life, but the USAY people reached out, took my hand and helped me find my way through, by letting me figure it out on my own, but letting me know I wasn’t alone.

Now, I know I have a lot of people at USAY in my corner. I know that I can reach for my future, and I am proud to say that I just got my diploma.”


USAY image projected in lights on a screenOur Impact What We Do

The Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth has been an influential not-for profit organization in Calgary since 2001.  USAY strives to provide essential programming and services to Calgary’s Aboriginal youth between the ages of twelve and twenty-nine years.

USAY Mission Statement:

  • The Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth (USAY) will enrich the lives of all urban Aboriginal youth by nurturing self-empowerment and fostering healthy collaboration and communication to ensure healthy future generations.

USAY Vision Statement:

  • The Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth (USAY) will be recognized as a fundamental organization in society, empowering urban Aboriginal youth to envision and attain a healthy sustainable future while upholding traditional Aboriginal values.

1999 Redmond Little Chief organized a suicide awareness conference, titled “Wake Up Call”, in the Aboriginal Community. The strongest recommendation from the conference was for the development of an Aboriginal youth council to assist the Mayor of Calgary in decisions of policy and strategy on issues concerning Aboriginal Youth in the city. With this recommendation in mind, Mr. Little Chief coordinated a roundtable to discuss the opportunities and strategies of the council. From this roundtable the Mayor’s Aboriginal Youth Advisory Committee (MAYAC) was formed.

Armed with fresh ideas and the support of Mayor Al Duerr, MAYAC formed a board of a second entity, the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth (USAY). In 2000, USAY hosted the 1st Annual Firekeepers Gathering aimed at assisting Aboriginal youth with issues concerning personal achievement in an urban setting. The success of the Firekeepers Gathering encouraged the board to explore other opportunities for Aboriginal youth in Calgary, and to see where USAY could provide services to ensure the experience of living in Calgary for Aboriginal youth is a positive one.

In 2001, with support from Family and Community Support Services, United Way of Calgary and Area, the Métis Nation of Alberta and Alberta Community Development, USAY was established as a not-for-profit organization and began paving the way as one of Calgary’s leading organizations for Aboriginal youth.

Today, USAY continues to serve Calgary’s Aboriginal community and provide youth with opportunities for advancement through board and volunteer opportunities. USAY will continue to seek out new opportunities and develop programming that will help and encourage Aboriginal youth to live healthy and successful lives in the city of Calgary.

Thank you for your support to help USAY make the goals, dreams and aspirations of our members a reality.


USAY logo pictured on a T-shirtOur Programs How We Do It

The following is a list and brief description of the programs implemented by USAY:

Aboriginal Recruitment Strategy

The Aboriginal Recruitment Strategy was created to help Aboriginal youth that have dropped out of school to re-engage in learning, whether it is a traditional school setting, alternative sources of learning, life skills programs or vocational programming. The partnership between Calgary Board of Education and USAY allows us to recruit Aboriginal youth who are hoping to return to school and seamlessly transition them back into a system that supports their success.

Aboriginal Youth Mentorship Program (AYMP)

Mentoring plays a key role for Aboriginal youth success in school and eventual high school completion. The AYMP program creates three tiers of mentoring within one program - adults, teens and children:

  • Adults mentor teens
  • The same teens mentor children

This model allows those youth at-risk in high school gain role modeling and mentoring from an adult, and they receive leadership skills by becoming a mentor and role model to a child.

Aboriginal Anti-Racism Movement Program (AARM)

AARM is a weekly meeting for youth to challenge their beliefs and the attitudes of others through the use of creative mediums. By providing opportunities for participants to practice and develop skills that promote self-esteem and self-confidence, AARM aims to help deconstruct the walls of racism that are all too prevalent in society.

AARM is an intensive program. It is not meant to reach a large amount of youth in a small way, but rather a small group of youth in a meaningful, positive way.

Aboriginal Student Achievement Program (ASAP)

The ASAP program creates an incentive for youth to be successful in school. The program provides participants with a series of small financial rewards for increases in academic grades during the academic year, up to a maximum of $1,000 per year.

Aboriginal Youth International Trip

This project provides an international learning experience for Aboriginal youth that have been in active in USAY’s programs for three or more consecutive years. In most cases, youth that attend this international opportunity have successfully graduated from high school and are transitioning from USAY’s programming into post-secondary or employment. USAY utilizes this experience as a farewell and congratulations for overcoming their barriers and having long-term success. 

Back Pack Giveaway

USAY Backpack Giveaway provides 300 Aboriginal children and youth in Calgary with backpacks and all the back-to-school supplies they need to make their school year an enjoyable and affordable one. The backpacks have all the necessary school supplies including:

  • binders & paper
  • pencils
  • pens
  • highlighters
  • scissors
  • geometry sets
  • glue
  • pencil crayons
  • rulers

Christmas Hampers

USAY’s Christmas Hampers provide families with supports during the holiday season. USAY staff work hard to fill the hampers with a considerable amount of groceries, and gifts for the children. Examples of hamper items have included:

  • non-perishables
  • gift cards for groceries and gas
  • transit tickets
  • personalized gifts for children
  • basic kitchen and household items
  • hygiene items
  • diapers

Special Editions of New Tribe Magazine

Publishing Special Editions of New Tribe Magazine allows USAY and its team of contributors to focus on a topic or issue that is important to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. Allowing an entire edition to be dedicated to one topic allows for unspoken stories to be told, critical information to be shared and complex questions to be asked. These editions promote open dialogue and raise awareness about important issues. Examples of previous Special Editions include; the Indian Residential School System and discrimination and human rights.

Blackfoot Graphic Novel

This program supports USAY's larger language initiative, which strives to increase the number of Blackfoot speakers among urban Aboriginal youth.  By developing youth friendly language tools, such as the Blackfoot Graphic Novels, USAY is working to encourage youth to embrace the Blackfoot language and play an active role in preservation and revitalization.

Blackfoot Language eLearning Centre

USAY has two free Blackfoot eLearning Courses on our website. Traditional language courses help instill and develop cultural awareness and pride among Aboriginal youth.


Youth participating in "Superheros" performanceOur Requests What You Can Do

USAY has a group of 12 youth that we've had in our programs for the past four years. Thankfully they've all recently graduated from high school and are now transitioning out of our programs; it is time for them to ‘leave the nest’ as one would say. To celebrate their huge accomplishments we are taking them on a marine conservation volunteer experience in Mexico.

The majority of the trip was made possible by USAY’s many donations and supporters over the past few years, but we need some additional funds to better support the youth in making them feel comfortable (basic swimwear, snorkeling equipment, luggage, etc.) and the outstanding cost of flights. We are asking that if you have anyone that might be interested in donating that you send them either link for more information.

The mission of this international trip is to increase our youth’s cultural understanding and awareness of global issues as well as to equip them with the knowledge and ability to further contribute towards key local issues in other Indigenous, areas while obtaining critical Canadian Aboriginal identity. We've attached our link to our Canada Helps page for this:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/urban-society-for-aboriginal-youth/please-help-usays-aboriginal-youth-international-trip/

Thank you so much for your help! Please help us spread the word for these deserving youth.


There are many ways you can support us; donation of supplies or monies, volunteer with our various programs or at our fundraising events. Please contact the Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth directly (403.233.8225) and we can let you know about our current opportunities.



LeeAnne Ireland
Executive Director
403.233.8225 x200
Charitable Number: 888713914RR0001

Donate Now

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 700,000