Supporting youth

When the North for Youth initiative was launched publicly in October of 2014, the stated aim was to address issues facing rural youth in north Wellington County “in a timely, coordinated and inclusive manner.”

Stated goals included ideas like fostering “networks to strengthen coordination and partnership around community-based skill development,” and “reducing barriers and increasing access to social and civic participation for youth,” while “increasing their ability to address issues that are important to them.”

While these may have sounded like pretty lofty goals at the time, this initiative has resulted in concrete actions and outcomes in a relatively short period of time.

On Feb. 13 youth resiliency worker Gabby Ieropoli provided Mapleton council with an update on activities coordinated through  the North for Youth initiative. As she explained, in 2013, a new organization called the North Wellington Coalition for Youth Resiliency conducted consultations with local service providers and community members to better understand the needs of local youth. They found a need for youth engagement efforts to improve youth well-being and reduce substance misuse in northern Wellington.

Since then, initiatives have included: Northern Wellington Youth Connections Day, local leaf cleanups powered by students, employment information provision, workshops on a wide range of youth-oriented topics, a distracted driving video contest for local teens and a new Youth of the Year Awards program. Youth Action Councils have also been formed in both Mapleton and Minto. The group has also conducted research with a north Wellington focus on such topics as: rural transportation options, youth harm reduction, and rural youth homelessness from a Wellington County perspective.

The initiative is accomplishing its goals in effective and visible fashion in support of one of this community’s greatest assets: local youth.

Originally, North for Youth was established with a $216,300 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) and other funding has been accessed since the group got rolling. However, with initial grant funding depleted, it is essential that new sources of funding be accessed to allow this important initiative to continue.

Local municipalities are being asked to kick in, as Mapleton has done with a $5,000 cash commitment and additional in-kind support, and other funding sources are being investigated. But community support may be the key to keeping the program rolling long-term.

From what has been shown so far, any forthcoming support is well deserved.