Community youth worker earns outstanding academic distinction


Weeks after finishing her degree, Elika Yamauchi is fulfilling the kind of child and youth care work she always wanted to do.

A community youth worker with RayCam Cooperative Centre, Yamauchi serves one of Canada’s most under-served neighbourhoods, the downtown eastside. Early on, Yamauchi, who graduates from the University of Victoria with a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care, decided to take a preventative approach to the wellbeing of the young people she supports.

“I was fascinated by the resilience of children and the amazing potential that they have,” Yamauchi says.

“Often there’s a lot of focus on what’s wrong, on diagnosis, on trying to “fix” children and youth as opposed to building on their strengths and capacities.”

“I want to get away from the mentality that children need to be “saved” and don’t have agency in their lives.”

At spring convocation, Yamauchi was awarded a Certificate of Outstanding Academic Distinction in the Faculty of Human and Social Development for obtaining the highest GPA of any graduating student. The accolade caught Yamauchi by surprise.

“It’s not difficult to invest in the hard work needed to get high marks when it’s something you’re passionate about and believe in,” she says.

It’s Yamauchi’s second undergraduate degree, the first being psychology, and second career, after she left fundraising to enrol in the program at UVic. The decision wasn’t easy, but Yamauchi has no regrets about pursuing another degree, especially since it was delivered online. (During her degree, Yamauchi was able to move from Kamloops back home to Vancouver seamlessly while studying.) 

“It really worked well for me. I enjoyed the smaller classrooms. Even though the whole degree was online, the discussions we had were really enriching and I learned so much from my fellow classmates,” she says. “Also, the privilege of working alongside Indigenous professors, elders, and knowledge keepers has been incredible. I am eternally grateful for their guidance and teachings.”

Yamauchi decided to complete an Indigenous specialization with her degree, which required her to complete practicums with organizations serving Indigenous populations, including Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society, and take courses offered from Indigenous perspectives.

“It has been such an amazing journey. What I love about the degree is, as much as you learn about child and youth development, a lot of it is inner work and self-reflection to stay accountable to working in a good way with diverse communities like the downtown eastside and alongside Indigenous children, youth, and families,” she says.

Yamauchi, whose first practicum was at RayCam, continued to work at the community centre throughout her degree, in both out-of-school care and recreational programming. Watching the children there grow up in front of her eyes has been rewarding, and she’s thrilled to start her career at RayCam.

“All the pieces fell into place in a way I wouldn’t have dreamed of,” she says.