Red Deer’s first Teen Empowerment Day drew 80 participants on Saturday and pleased organizers are already working to make it an annual event.
“It’s been fantastic. For a first event I think it’s been really great,” said Red Deer mother Nicole Maurier, who organized the event after hearing from her daughter and her friends of the challenges and stresses they face.
“I’ve been in contact with a variety of organizations. One is Alberta Health Services, and they would love to work with me creating a committee for next year and to make it an annual event.”
The plan is also to recruit teens to an organization committee to provide input on who they want to see as future speakers “so that we’re actually empowering, inspiring and motivating teens while they are creating the event.”
Maurier said it was nice to see a mixture of teens and adults, including local parents and teachers who volunteered their time at the conference held at Red Deer College’s Cenovus Learning Commons.
The speaker line-up at the day-long event included teens, teachers and parents talking about the impact of suicide on their lives and the community, a self defence demonstration, a motivational speaker, and the Toronto organizer of the Count Me In Conference, the largest youth empowerment event of its kind.
Chad Olsen, who was convicted of drunk driving for his role in the deaths of a Red Deer couple who were parents of five, spoke to students about the impact of making the wrong choices.
Teens interviewed gave the conference high marks.
Shianne Therrien, 15, was told about the conference from friend Koral Empringham.
“I just thought it sounded like a really good idea.”
“We’ve heard about suicide awareness because there have been so many suicides in Red Deer,” said Therrien, a Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School student.
“I really like the personal stories that people are telling. We’ve had five different speakers now and I just really enjoyed connecting with them in that way.
“It really touches me personally. I cried so much and you can really feel their pain and it just encourages all of us to get some help when going through difficult times.”
Empringham, also 15 and a Lindsay Thurber student, said she wanted to see how others deal with the difficulties facing teens.
“I thought it would be interesting to see how different people cope with stuff, and that you’re not really going through a bunch of stuff on your own,” she said.
“Sometimes it can feel like you are.
“There are always people that care, and you’re not going through it by yourself.”
Among the bigger issues facing teens are suicide and trying to fit in with friends, she said.
“One thing can kind of seem like the end of the world, where really in a week it won’t matter anymore.”
Hunting Hills High School student Kayden Walper, 14, said he plans to tell friends to come next year.
“I’d tell my friends to come to this and tell them it will affect them pretty hard.
“I would definitely recommend it to lots of people.”