Outside Looking In (OLI), is a unique program that allows youth to express themselves through the arts, specifically through dance. This year OLI had their largest youth participation rate in the program with 57 youth from across Canada giving amazing choreographed hip hop performances at Toronto’s downtown Elgin Winter Garden Theatre on June 4, 2013.
Outside Looking In (OLI) was founded by Tracee Smith in September 2007. In its infancy, the program began as a sole proprietorship, but with its first successful show in May 2008, it fast became an official charitable organization in 2009.
Outside Looking In gives mainstream Canadians the opportunity to learn more about Indigenous peoples, beyond what they see and read in the media, through an annual multi media performance in downtown Toronto. The program was implemented in three returning communities( Lac la Croix First Nation, Onigaming First Nation and Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, and Sandy Lake First Nation joined for the first time this year.
Communities that become involved in the Outside Looking In program are required to implement at least one OLI course into their school calendar. Students earn at least one high school credit, and OLI assists the community with professional guidance selecting, planning, providing and designing assessment tools that will fit the community that is involved.
Criteria for participating in the Outside Looking In (OLI) program means that the youth have to maintain regular attendance throughout the school term, keep their grades up and attend all rehearsal and practice sessions. Upon successful completion of the program, the youth are brought from their home communities to downtown Toronto for two weeks to prepare for a final huge performance in front of hundreds in a downtown theatre.
Securing sponsorship from the Central Neighborhood House charity has allowed OLIto run a pilot program in Toronto this year with youth from the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre. The success of the pilot program has allowed for this amazing dance program to be expanded into other Friendship Centres and Indigenous organizations across Canada.
I find it amazing that there is such a program as Outside Looking In because it is incredibly empowering to see the youth on stage at the Elgin Winter and Gardner Theatre, with huge smiles on their faces, and just pure glee at being able to show their communities and those outside of their communities a chance to see them shine.
One aspect of Outside Looking In was just implemented in 2011/2012, and that is the Future Leader’s program. The Future Leaders Program was designed to support OLI youth who are approaching graduation to explore future opportunities through positive and encouraging mentoring relationships. Through mentorship, they learn various skills that they can bring with them into their future studies, employment, training and life goals.
The Future Leaders Program involves not only mentorship but also gives the youth an opportunity to attend a week long Future Leaders Camp in March where they visit local colleges/universities, do career searches, resume writing, and attending a Mentor Day in Toronto that focuses on leadership.
If you want to become involved with this organization, please visit www.olishow.com
Photos By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)