Ladysmith is the midst of finalizing a progressive document that will become only the third Youth Plan of its kind on Vancouver Island.
The framework has been under development for months, as a collective of partners met with teens and pre-teens and together created a road map promoting youth involvement in community activities while also touching on important issues like mental wellness.
“Even though it’s a town-led initiative the youth strategy is really a partnership with the school district, and Stz’uminus and Island Health and all the non-profits in the community,” said Clayton Postings, the town’s director of Parks, Recreation and Culture.
“Everyone’s connected with the youth in some capacity so there’s a real need to make sure that we understand what those partnerships look like and what role should everybody have within the community.”
An open house was recently held at the Frank Jameson Community Centre where community members could peruse poster boards showcasing bullet points from planning sessions and conversations with youth.
The topics of the boards included Creating a Communication Hub, Increasing Participation and Variety, Accessing Activities – Transportation & Funding, Advocating for Youth Voice, Responding to Diversity, Strengthening Partnerships, Supporting Mental Wellness.
A survey conducted as part of the developing the Youth Plan received 202 responses from 11 to 18 year olds in the community.
Results showed that youth favour an informal social setting or outdoor activity, followed closely by a program such as an organized club or team sport for their preferred type of community activity.
Ladysmith youth also said a main goal of choosing to participate in an activity was to be with friends and Instagram is the best way to let them know what’s going on.
Consultant Dr. Neil Henderson helped the town work on creating the plan and said most communities face challenges engaging the 12-18 year olds.
“We’re asking how do we help kids move through that period were it’s either make or break,” said Henderson who also assisted Saanich with its own youth strategy. “There’s just a drop off in terms of what’s available to them and that’s what we’re trying to look at in terms of mental wellness and how we develop activities in the community – more things like skateboard parks where kids can let it rip and not have a parent hovering over them, allowing them to take risks is huge.”
In the survey, youth were also asked about what’s most important when deciding about youth recreation opportunities. Ranked among the lowest response rates was whether peers are involved in planning or leading the activity, whether they’ll learn something that can be applied to employment later on and if they could receive a school credit.
The Ladysmith Resources Centre Association’s executive director Shannon Wilson was part of the team that assisted in the formulation of the Youth Plan.
She said the process has provided opportunities to work with community partners for the betterment of youth.
“I’m really excited about the potential we have to build new programs together,” she said. “If there’s something we identify as a project, that’s all of our organizations working together and pooling our resources, it will make those projects come to life because we’ll be working together.”
Postings said the final report that could come to council as early as May 14 will include some concrete recommendations but should be looked at as more of a long-term strategy.
“These are so dependent on partnerships, basically the majority of the recommendations are, so how do we work with our partners to work towards this and how do we support our partners,” he said.
One of the areas were the town and others may look to zero in on first is the idea being floated by LSS students involved in the CVRD and Social Planning Cowichan’s Placemaking series to create a gathering spot for teens, locally.
“We’re hearing that it’s important but we want to make sure whatever we do is the right thing,” he said, adding that a “youth voice” has also been brought up a lot.
“Is it a youth council? Is youth on a number of a town council committees? Is it a partnership with the student council?”