On October 17th, the newly founded Arran-Elderslie Youth Advisory Council held our first ever Youth Forum, a wonderful event encouraging local stakeholders and youth in the community to learn about each other and advocate for themselves. A number of business owners, representatives and politicians were able to attend, notably including Alex Ruff, Member of Parliament for Bruce-Grey Owen Sound as well as Steve Hammel, mayor of Arran-Elderslie. Businesses and programs including Launchpad, VPI, and OYAP had a chance to highlight their benefit to the youth present.
The Youth Forum was very successful in its goal, sparking meaningful conversation about the challenges youth face growing up in Arran-Elderslie. The 28 attendees were all given an equal platform– putting those with local authority in an open dialogue with our youth provides a valuable opportunity to highlight and clarify the initiatives we value. The Forum opened new lines of communication, which has potential to give the Youth Council serious traction in our municipality. Fresh eyes see different areas for improvement; differing intergenerational perspectives became apparent during the challenge wall activity. A number of excellent topics were brought to light by the adults– namely transportation barriers, rural internet issues, and low numbers resulting in less successful events. Meanwhile, the youth focused on accessibility for mental health resources, support for LGBTQ+ youth, the associated stigma and bigotry surrounding both of those topics, and much more.
Perhaps the most important item on the agenda was the Youth Council members’ initiative pitches. The council as a whole has split off into smaller teams working hard to progress initiatives we are passionate about, and the Forum was the chance to show off those accomplishments.
Our four initiatives have come a long way in the short month and a half since the council’s meetings commenced.
Fianna Mcknight, Jessica Verhees and Vikki Ernest are working to promote local library branches, displaying their value to students and community members.
Avery Osthoff, Emily Wilford and Alex Oestreicher put their efforts toward youth hangouts to close the distance brought on both by quarantine and by the gaps between our towns.
Erika Bryson and Alex pursued holiday spirit in our current circumstances with a Christmas light competition– keeping us safe and festive as winter rolls around.
Halle Greenaway, Avery, Emily, and Laura Fullerton put their efforts into voicing concerns about speeding and unsafe driving in Arran-Elderslie.
Social Researcher for the Council, Alex Oestreicher says: “The youth forum was a fantastic way to engage youth with local stakeholders– the conversation that took place
particularly in the challenge wall was both exciting and inspiring. I am looking forward to other ways to engage youth and stakeholders in the future!”
The Youth Council has been working hard the last two months to kick things off, and it’s definitely been a success! Next month will bring new progress, new ideas and new updates, so stay tuned on our social media (Instagram @arranelderslieyouth) and keep an eye out for future events!