iHuman Youth Society: Adding Culture to the Community
The iHuman Youth Society is a place where marginalized young people can build new lives through the arts. Currently located at 9604 101A Avenue, programming for young people between the ages of 12 and 24 empowers these youth by fostering creative self-expression, the building of identity, and making for a brighter future.
Catherine Broomfield is the Executive Director of iHuman. She joined the organization in 2010. “I joined iHuman because the philosophy and culture of iHuman matches my own. I found a position that allows me to care about people and be cared about,” she says. “I can engage the youth we serve in fulfilling and meaningful ways and also educate the community about the gifts each of these youth has to share. I can be meeting the Mayor and Council or some other dignitary one minute and consoling a traumatized youth the next. I’m a hugger – at iHuman I give and receive lots of hugs on a daily basis.”
Broomfield has some lofty goals with iHuman. “When Edmontonians think of non-profits doing exceptional work to make our city vibrant and liveable, I want them to list ‘iHuman’ alongside agencies like Boys & Girls Clubs/Big Brothers Big Sisters, YMCA, Edmonton’s Food Bank, and the Christmas Bureau. Long term, I’d like to see an iHuman satellite studio wherever youth engaged in high risk behaviour need us across the country,” she says.
“A second goal is to see iHuman established in its permanent facility with an endowment fund. This would bring stability to an organization that has moved far too many times in its history and give the youth a place they know isn’t going to disappear. Our Capital Campaign will publicly launch this year. iHuman provides Edmontonians with examples of what can happen when a youth whom others have ‘written off’ is given a caring space to heal – what creative and positive contributions that youth can make to their own lives and to our community simply by being authentically accepted.”
The creative vibe of iHuman’s current space is evident upon just walking through the door. The walls are covered with artwork, both traditional and urban street art, while studio space is occupied with young people working on music. A gym area allows “clients” to move freely and do dance and drama projects. Other programs iHuman offers include fashion design and creative writing.
Hosting and presenting a variety of fundraising events throughout the city, as well as in the downtown core, iHuman’s diversity of programming reflects the multi-faceted life of its Executive Director. For starters, Broomfield was a teen mom. “My water broke on stage at the Jubilee as I received my high school diploma,” she says, laughing. She spent 10 years as a Sergeant in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves; has previously been an Executive Director of a Boys & Girls Club; managed the delivery of large sports/cultural events; been a licensed real estate assistant; been a marketing manager for a geographic information system (GIS) company; and, has 11 years in academic advising and international recruitment and program management in the post secondary sector.
As if that isn’t a long enough list of career accomplishments, Broomfield also has an extensive educational background, which includes a Bachelor of Physical Education majoring in Sport Administration; a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology majoring in Family Studies and a minor in Cultural Diversity; and, Certificate in Peace and Post Conflict. “I have a professional designation of PHEc, which is a national designation as a Professional Human Ecologist,” she explains. “I have plans to commence a Masters program in the future.”
She’s learned how to keep from letting her work dominate every waking hour. “In a human services environment, such as iHuman, maintaining boundaries around my work and personal life is essential. I’m not serving anyone at my best if I’m overworked and burnt out.”
Her trooper attitude was very evident when iHuman experienced a break-in on the evening of Friday, February 8. Computers, music equipment, and art were stolen. iHuman remained open, with Broomfield emphasizing that iHuman is an organization that persevers through resilience. “While this situation is an unusual and admittedly disruptive one for us, I’ve no doubt that the passion the staff and Board have for iHuman’s mission is recommitted by this event,” she said in a press release issues shortly after the break-in. “A family pulls together when there’s a difficulty and does its best. That’s what we’re going to be doing in this case.”
Learn more about iHuman and its programs at www.ihuman.org.