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Program Details

Meaningful summer for 16- and 17-year-olds

“Through this program I was able to participate in so many amazing activities and work for an incredible non-profit organization. I made new friends and developed my independence. I will carry these memories with me for the rest of my life."
– Former youth participant in the program

What to Expect

Are you interested in travel, participating in meaningful work, and have a desire to experience new things this summer?

The YMCA Summer Work Student Exchange (SWSE) is a 6-week program that will give you the opportunity to: 

  • Travel to an area of Canada where your second official language is spoken 
  • Work full-time in a community-based organization 
  • Stay with a host family 
  • Participate in program activities 
  • Become acquainted with your new community 
  • Make new friends and have fun 

SWSE is committed to making the program accessible for you. We support youth of diverse cultures and beliefs, income levels, skills and interests. If you have any questions or concerns about your ability to participate, contact us today. 

There isn’t a specific, model participant, and the diversity of people who participate each year is appreciated. 




While on exchange, you will work full-time with a non-profit or public sector organization.  

You are paid at the provincial minimum wage of the province you’re working in, while being provided opportunities to grow valuable job skills for the future.  

During the interview process, you will be asked questions about your preferred areas of employment. 

Examples of past placements include, but are not limited to: 

  • Working at a media arts company 
  • Interning at a museum or cultural center 
  • Assisting as a science and technology camp counsellor 
  • Being a counsellor-in-training at a soccer camp


Activities are such an important part of the program. Your Local Coordinator will organize activities three times a week — Saturday, Sunday and one evening during the week  — to introduce you to your new community. Participating in activities will also help you to get to know other members of your group and build new relationships.  

The program covers all activity costs. 

Types of activities you may experience include: 

  • Arts and culture: Attending Shakespeare in the Park in Toronto, Ontario
  • Sports and physical activity: Participating in a circus school in Quebec City, Quebec
  • Truth and reconciliation: Visiting Tsawenhohi House at a Huron-Wendat reserve near Quebec City to make dreamcatchers, bake bannock bread and discuss Indigenous knowledge and storytelling with community elders
  • Participant’s choice: Visiting amusement parks
  • Community service: Volunteering at a local animal shelter and more!

Staying with a Host Family


"I love my host family so much! I feel like the pairing process was done very well and that the family I was paired with was very similar to my family back home, so it made adjusting to a new community easier.”

Former youth participant in the program

Staying with a host family in your new community is an important part of the SWSE program.

These six weeks will allow you to: 

  • Get to know a different family’s way of life 
  • Discover the community they live in 
  • Practise your second official language skills daily

Participants often report this as the best part of their exchange experience. Along with your job and group activities, families are a key resource for you as you navigate your new community. 

Staff work hard to make sure that youth and their host families are well matched by asking questions in the interviews about food, pets, chores and more. Families are as diverse and varied as the youth participants are. They live in places across the country, in houses and apartments, and have many different cultural and religious backgrounds with differing structures and expectations. Youth and host families often find they learn a lot about Canadian diversity by living together. 

A priority for the program is maintaining respect for everyone involved, and this is reflected in the expectations for host and youth relationships.