Nicole Edwards Leadership Fund

We are honored to announce that we have changed the name of our Leadership Fund to Nicole Edwards Leadership Fund. This change commemorates the legacy of our founder Nicole Edwards by directly supporting Yukon youth to explore their passions, learn new skills and become leaders in their own way.

Everything we do at BYTE is about creating spaces for Northern youth to lead. We want youth to have the strengths and skills they need to lead happy, healthy and meaningful lives and to be heard in their communities. With this goal in mind, we launched the BYTE Youth Leadership Fund to celebrate our 20th Anniversary in 2018. For over 20 wonderful years we have had the honour of working with and investing in young people in the North, and we are excited to continue to do so with this fund! Our goal is to use the fund to connect youth aged 14-25 to experiences and resources to help develop their passions, gifts and identity.

Since the launch of this fund in 2018, we have funded $15,000 in experiences and opportunities for over 12 Northern youth! The fund has connected youth with equipment such as cameras and on the land gear to pursue their passions as well as travel and leadership opportunities!

For 2021 we have been able to increase the fund to a total of $10,000, thanks to generous donations!

The Nicole Edwards Leadership Fund is available for youth who need support attending or participating in any opportunity they think will build their leadership, self-esteem and confidence. The fund aims to connect young people with experiences and resources to help develop their passions, gifts and identity. 

Who can apply?

Young people aged 14-25 who live in areas currently served by BYTE (for 2021-2022 that is Yukon, Mackenzie Delta Region, NWT; and Atlin, BC)

Please note: We welcome all applicants but given the context in which BYTE works, preference will be given to applicants from rural communities and/or Indigenous and marginalized youth.

What can you apply for?

Applicants can apply for a maximum of $1,500 in the 2021-2022 Year. A maximum of $10,000 will be awarded prior to March 31st, 2022. Where possible all expenses will be paid and purchased directly by BYTE or must be confirmed through copies of actual paid receipts. Please note that 10% of the amount awarded will be held back and paid upon receiving your final report and photos.

Eligible costs include:

  • Transportation
  • Accommodation
  • Per Diems ($50/day/person or $10 for breakfast, $15 for lunch and $25 for dinner)

*Per diem rate only available when food not available through event or conference

  • Course and/or conference registration fees
  • Materials and equipment needed to participate (such as camping equipment, laptop, camera, school supplies, and other eligible materials at the discretion of the fund committee)

Application Deadlines and Timelines

Applications are now open. Interested youth can apply anytime until March 31st, 2022. Please note that applications must be received at least 1 month prior to conference/gathering/course, etc. Our Selection Committee will review applications monthly beginning in June 2021 and will evaluate responses on a scale of 1-3.  Funds are distributed on a first come, first serve basis up to a maximum of $10,000 in total.

Nicole Edwards

Nicole Edwards (September 14, 1970 – September 8, 2021)
Nicole lived a life of open-hearted positivity, seeing the beauty and humanity in each person she met. She sought to listen without judgement and gave you her full and focused attention. Nicole was able to make a person of any age, ability or background feel important and heard.

Raised in South River, Ontario, by a group of strong women with her mother at the core, Nicole discovered early that art and community flourished together; by the time she was a teenager, she was an organizer as well as a performer. As a teen and young adult she traveled extensively, undertaking cultural exchanges and volunteer work across Canada and beyond. She learned to speak multiple languages, always seeking to connect and learn with and from whomever she met along the way.

After university Nicole returned home and wrote her first successful grant and hired 10 youth to do youth-led, creative community development projects in local history and performing arts. Right from the start she was invested in inclusivity and amplifying youth voices within rural communities, bringing together diverse groups to create space for youth.

Nicole moved to the Yukon in 1997 where she quickly got involved in youth advocacy. Here, she founded B.Y.T.E (then Bringing Youth Towards Equality, now BYTE – Empowering Youth Society) and inspired a generation of Yukon youth to ‘Be the change’ – work that would earn her a Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General. BYTE filled a much-needed gap at the time.

The first mission statement was:
“Yukon youth unite to strengthen youth voice, take action and break about positive change for the well being of everyone.”

Nicole also was an accomplished musician and a founding member of Yukon Women in Music. The release of her first original album in 2001 coincided with a diagnosis of scleroderma, an auto-immune disease. In 2003, her symptoms forced her to leave the youth work she loved. Whenever possible, she continued to mentor youth, including in performance, song-writing, and music industry. She facilitated worships for youth at Youth Plan to Take Over the World youth conferences and for many other groups.

Throughout her ongoing musical career and multiple albums, she often highlighted youth in her songs and music videos through relevant themes of well-being, relationship, and activism, and she celebrated contributions by Northern youth dancers and vocalists.

With her husband Lee at her side and much determination, Nicole learned to adapt to chronic fatigue and pain. Her prime vocation remained community service through the arts. She also became an advocate for empathetic, respectful, patient-centred care. Her last album “Yukon Lullaby for Mental Health” is a set of songs and resources on musical mindful strategies, to support us all in whole-self health and emotional well-being through times of trial.

Nicole passed away on September 8, 2021.

For those wishing to remember Nicole, please share her music and mindfulness resources that you can find on her website:

“Nicole inspired me and so many other youth to aspire to greatness. Nicole’s leadership forged a path that instilled values of acceptance of diversity, unity, integrity and compassion. She continues to model these qualities within her life, particularly with her career in music. I am honoured to call her a friend and mentor.”
– Cherish Clarke, member of BYTE’s peer support network

“Nicole’s passion and dedication for empowering youth through music has changed my life. Nicole began working with me when I was fourteen. She encouraged me to pursue my creative passions and showed me how to use music as a tool to engage my community. Her work has created countless opportunities for myself and other youth to live positive, healthy, and fulfilled lives. Nicole’s influence has inspired me to become a professional musician and educator, and she continues to make a difference with her music and limitless positivity. She is an architect of the amazing youth music and cultural scene that makes the Yukon truly unique.”
– Daniel Ashley

“Nicole was my first employer right out of high school, as she hired a friend and I as part of a team doing rural community arts work. She was *all in* for any innovative youth-led ideas and tried to find resourcing and connections to support our projects. Over the years she continued to be a mentor and friend: she inspired us, encouraged us, and helped us grow in creative arts, children’s programming, youth advocacy work, and so, so much more.
Nicole was a gifted singer-songwriter and her voice, lyrics, and soul just continue to speak to me — right from her early ‘emerging artist’ songs to her fresh tracks released just before her passing. Her songs are fun and meaningful, sharing everyday joys, deep sorrows, address injustice, and inspire action. After moving to the Yukon, she founded BYTE, another youth non-profit as well as continuing her musical career in her beloved northern community. I wish I could say thank you to the Yukon community who loved her and supported her so!
Nicole was forced to live with scleroderma, a severe and chronic illness. While scleroderma progressively limited her ability to participate in life, she continued to adapt, sharing her music and creative work, inviting all to love, serve, and uplift each other. As she moved into needing more care, she focused on creating music and resources on mindfulness and mental health for all ages. Nicole radiated empathy and respect and generosity of spirit.”
– Diana Brushey