Youths will provide input to City of Red Deer on their own terms

A three-year program was approved to get teen opinions on city issues

Youth are interested in bringing their voice to the City of Red Deer’s council table — but they want to do it their way.

More than 90 per cent of youth age 13 to 18 who were surveyed in September said they didn’t want to sit on a governance committee, as was suggested.

Instead they were willing to give their input either through “virtual engagement,” or through an annual youth gathering.

These results were presented to city council on Monday as part of a Red Deer Youth Voice Strategy — and they weren’t a surprise to at least one councillor.

Coun. Tanya Handley said her teenage daughter told her “to get kids to show up, you’ve got to make it fun. Make it about a chance to see their friends and meet new people and kids will come.”

Bobbi-Jo Stannard, FCSS and community development supervisor, said the young people who were surveyed at a YOUth Forum event showed interest in many municipal issues, including crime and public safety, arts and culture and recreation.

To gain their input on these and other issues, she suggested the city implement a three-year pilot project that would cost $14,000 per year (the money would be re-allocated from the Children and Youth Strategy Fund) to fund youth engagement gatherings.

Instead of having one gathering per year, she suggested two to “keep up the momentum” and allow for continuance as some older teenagers “age out” of the program.

These forum for “unpacking priorities for our community” would increase civic engagement for young people, help building leadership and mentoring skills., said Stannard.

The project was approved unanimously by city council. ”Youth hold the key to the future of this planet,” said Coun. Ken Johnston, who also feels “they are the only generation who has skin in the game…”

That’s why youths are leading the charge against climate change, are speaking up against gun violence in schools in the U.S, and for the rights of girls in many Third World countries, he added.

By supporting this pilot project, “we are saying we support you, and we believe in you,” added Johnston.

Coun. Buck Buchanan is pleased with plans to measure and record youth input at these forums, “so we see what the result is.”

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