Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative has an incredible team dedicated to our cause, both staff and volunteers.
Joe Calendino, Executive Director + Co-Founder
Joe has over 8 years of experience working with youth in some of the city’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods. His experience, as well as his unique personal background, motivated him to create Yo Bro | Yo Girl Youth Initiative in 2009. As a former member of the Hells Angels and addict, Joe has experienced firsthand the consequences of his choices. He went from being a successful businessman in the mobile phone industry to living, drug addicted on the streets of Vancouver after losing everything to drugs and gangs. Joe was honoured with the Courage to Come Back Award in 2014 for overcoming his addictions and using his experience to help others. Along with his Business Degree, Joe holds a certificate in Substance Use from the Justice Institute of BC and is a certified black-belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Joe published To Hell and Back, a novel about his personal experience, in 2018.
Brenda Calendino, Director of Education + Co-Founder
Brenda holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology from UBC. Brenda has been working as an educator, consultant, and Registered Clinical Counsellor with vulnerable children, youth, and their families for the past 25 years. She has been involved with YBYG since its inception and plays an integral role in curriculum development and program expansion. Brenda provides many hours of one-on-one support to YBYG participants and is leading the organization's efforts to gather impact data through the Youth and Programs Strengths Survey.
Brandon Robertson, Program Coordinator
With a history of gang affiliation, drug addiction and time served in prison, Brandon's story of recovery and reconciliation reaches the most vulnerable youth we work with. Having left his life of crime, drugs and violence behind, Brandon achieved his diploma in social service work with a specialization in youth work from Vancouver Community College in 2015. Brandon originally met Joe through his practicum placement and has been with us ever since as an essential part of the YBYG team. As Joe's right hand man, Brandon oversees our program delivery and his work has enabled us to expand our reach and introduce important new programs, for both boys and girls. When he's not working with YBYG's team and youth, you'll find him at home enjoying time with his fiancee and three sons. Read Brandon’s story in our 2016/2017 Impact Report.
Kyle Cardinal, Volunteer Coordinator
Through his love of martial arts and passion for working with youth, Kyle came to YBYG in 2014. Kyle is YBYG’s Volunteer Coordinator. He initially began volunteering as a martial arts program co-facilitator at the City Central Learning Centre in Surrey. From there, he moved on to help establish our outreach program at the Newton Recreational Centre, and is now facilitating an outreach program on Tsawwassen First Nation lands. Kyle has years of experience working with at-risk youth and is currently a youth worker with Tsawwassen First Nation. His educational background is in law enforcement studies, graduating from the Justice Institute of British Columbia. He aspires to pursue a career in law enforcement while continuing to provide mentorship to at-risk youth within his community.
Ary Azez, Lead Program Facilitator
Ary came to YBYG over six years ago as a program participant and has worked his way up to being the Lead Program Facilitator. His love of martial arts has lead him to be a two time silver medalist in Canadian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and he now facilitates our outreach program in Surrey at the Newton Recreational Centre. Ary has years of experience working with at-risk youth and holds a National Coaching Certificate along with multiple other qualifications. Ary has also taken the lead on multiple elementary school programs throughout Surrey, and hopes to help create a safe environment where youth can make smart and healthy choices. His educational background is in Applied Science and he is actively pursuing a degree in Mathematics and in Civil Engineering.
One of our objectives is to empower our youth to become ambassadors, mentors, and role models. Youth Leaders are a dedicated group of YBYG participants who demonstrate leadership qualities among their peers by offering a positive influence in their schools, community, and programs. Youth Leaders mentor youth new to the program and are trained to work with elementary school students involved in our Street Safe program. There are currently 25 Youth Leaders making a real difference at YBYG and in our community.
YBYG youth who have participated in our programs and demonstrated the capacity to lead and facilitate programs are hired as Program Assistants once they graduate from high-school. They are dependable, supportive, and responsible individuals who implement our core values while facilitating programs. There are currently 12 Program Assistants contributing to the success of our in-school and after-school programs.