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Youth forum designed to empower

Joint community youth council expected outcome



YOUth Decide is a two-day youth workshop designed to put the "you" into youth. Scheduled for the evening of Friday, Feb. 10 and all day Saturday, Feb. 11, the free forum is open to all Grade 10 -12 students in Pemberton and Mount Currie.

"This year we’ve adopted a theme of ‘power’, power to be yourself, power to overcome obstacles, power to be involved in your community," said Stephanie Coughlin, forum organizer.

To reinforce this message of empowerment, entire weekend participants will receive a hoodie emblazoned with the word "power". However, youth that take part in this two-day workshop will get a lot more out of the experience than a new sweatshirt.

Billed as an opportunity for youth to voice their opinions about issues affecting Pemberton and Mount Currie, the forum will also be a valuable networking opportunity with skill-building workshops.

In the spirit of youth empowerment, four senior high school students are assisting in organizing the event. The students, Kelby Sehlurd, Yelarah Peters, Kirsten Dickey and Alix Lamontagne, were selected for the stipend positions based on their leadership abilities and volunteer experience. Rounding out the committee are Margaret Jones and the Youth Drop-in co-ordinator Geoff Pross.

Coughlin emphasizes that the forum is for all youth, not just those who are already identified as leaders.

"It’s for all levels of energies. If you have a little input we want to hear it, if you have a lot we want to hear that from you, too," she said. "We want to open your eyes to culture, let you get involved in your community and build confidence."

Last year’s conference attendants identified their core issues as including a need to increase resources, cultural activities and transportation as well as recreation and employment opportunities.

"They also expressed a need to be heard from by the Mount Currie Band and the Village of Pemberton mayor and council," said Coughlin.

It is her hope that a joint community Youth Council, consisting of young adults 16 to 21 years of age, will be formed from this year’s forum. The Youth Council would approach the respective community governments three times a year to express youth concerns.

"This all stemmed from (former) Mayor Elinor Warner. She really deserves the credit," said Coughlin. "She has such passion for youth. Now the Mount Currie Band and Jordan (Sturdy) and the new village council are interested."

Forum topics will include recreation, sports and culture; outreach programs; sexuality and relationships; sustainability and politics.

There will also some hands-on workshops including a drumming workshop where each youth will make a traditional Lil’wat drum. This Friday night workshop follows a free dinner at the Mount Currie Community School starting at 6 p.m. Local artist and Pemberton Arts Council founder, Karen Love, will also be leading art workshops.

The Saturday session kicks off at noon at Pemberton Secondary School with a lunch sponsored by the Wildwood restaurant and will wrap up at 4 p.m. That night from 8 p.m. to midnight there will be a video dance party hosted by Stardust Sounds at the Pemberton Community Centre.

Free transportation will be available between Mount Currie and Pemberton for forum participants.

This free event is possible due to a $25,000 Community Futures grant and a $5,000 donation from the MCB (other monies have yet to be confirmed).

Those who are in Grade 8 and 9, or choose not to attend the forum, may attend the video dance party at a cost of $5, with proceeds going to the Youth Council. More information will be available on Jan. 25 and 27 when YOUth Decide organizers will be onsite at PSS during lunch hour.

Youth (16-21) interested in being involved with Youth Council are encouraged to call Coughlin at 604-894-5979. An inaugural meeting is planned for Thursday, Feb. 23.