Life in rural B.C. can be tough as a teenager. I know — I’ve been there. I couldn’t wait to graduate high school and be able to move to the “big city” and had little plans of returning to my “Koots roots” when I left home the day after high school ended.
I spent most of my twenties living in Victoria, attending university, working government jobs and loving the island life. But something changed… I wanted a slower paced life, I wanted to raise a family in a small town and grow my own food. Cue in moving back to Creston in 2010.
The Creston Valley is an incredible place to live — for certain segments of the population. This was clearly noted in the Better Life Project. The results were astounding for generally how “happy” Creston Valley residents are — but they were far from even across an age spectrum. We saw that respondents 65 years and older scored 74.8, but those 19 and under had a score of only 57.5. This also rang true if someone was making less than $20,000 or unemployed (hello, youth unemployment). To me, those raise alarm bells that as a community we need to dedicate more to helping our young people feel valued, supported and have an overall sense of well-being.
Council recently received the final report for the Youth Engagement Strategy, which was created by the community throughout 2013-15. We immediately formed a select council committee with a term of one year to make recommendations to council for possible implementation and associated budgets to carry out activities. With a quick turn of heads, the two “young” councillors were appointed, including myself, along with Coun. Kevin Boehmer, who is chair of the committee.
The report highlighted eight key findings for the Creston Valley to enhance life for our valley’s young people. Of those, four top priorities were identified:
•Develop transportation options and address youth safety;
•Create positive perceptions of youth;
•Develop meaningful participation for youth; and,
•Positive and affordable youth spaces and resources.
While these are big challenges to work on, the Town of Creston, surrounding Regional District of Central Kootenay directors and many community organizations are working on just that. Since the start of the report, two key community groups have been formed, the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Teen Action Committee (TAC). CAC has many community partners involved with youth programming that meets monthly. The TAC is made up of teens, the youth co-ordinator and adult mentor to come up with free and low-cost teen programming events. Hats off to youth co-ordinator Rachel Wagner for all her enthusiasm and dedication. She keeps their Facebook page updated frequently. They host rad events like Park in the Dark, concerts and manage the teen drop-in space at the Snoring Sasquatch.
We’ve got lots to do to help young people thrive in this community, and let’s take a night to celebrate all that we have achieved! I invite you to come out to the Youth Engagement Strategy launch party from 4-5:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Sasquatch. We’ll share the report findings, showcase the successes that this community has achieved, introduce some of the key players, eat some pizza and give out a bunch of rad prizes (who wants an iPad?). All we ask from you is to help us prioritize the many things we could and should do for the youth in our community.
I can only hope that when my daughter is a teenager, that she will feel a sense of pride and belonging in this beautiful community. And really, isn’t that what life is all about for all of us, regardless of age?