Youth Network to encompass entire valley
By Stephanie Stevens, E-Know exclusive
What do youth want? What are the obstacles they face? What opportunities are they hoping for?
Those are the questions the Columbia Valley Youth Network (CVYN) wants to answer.
Headed up by coordinator Angela Miller, the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT)-funded initiative has been over a year in the works with a volunteer working committee meeting regularly developing goal areas and framework to ensure the new program got its best start.
Sherry Doerr, president and board chair of the Windermere Valley Youth Centre Society (WVYCS), said while her focus is on the WVYCS run Summit Youth Centre in Invermere, she is excited to see a program that will encompass the entire valley as a whole.
Doerr has been a member of the working committee since the inception of the CVYN and remains on the oversight committee, which includes representatives from various youth organizations in the valley, Family Dynamix, David Thompson Secondary School and Regional District of East Kootenay Electoral Areas F and G. The oversight committee will back up Miller in her efforts and offer guidance if she requests it.
“After almost two years since the announcement of the change in funding from the CBT for initiatives to youth engagement within the Columbia Valley we are excited and looking forward to the opportunity to discover new and exciting opportunities that are to benefit the youth of the valley,” said Doerr. “The opportunity for their voice to be heard and us as adults to listen (article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) may provide direction for the Summit Youth Centre to organize additional programming or restructure current offerings. We firmly believe in the value of youth centres and the intrinsic benefits they provide to all youth. The question will become, if a youth centre is desired how can we make our services to better suit their needs? Our youth are worth our investment in time and resources, financial and otherwise.”
The legal entity for the CVYN is Family Dynamix of Invermere, handling the financial requirements for the grant.
The network will not focus on only one area or program in the Columbia Valley but encompass all of them, a challenge Miller is looking forward to.
“When I saw the job posting I immediately knew it was a good fit for me,” she said. “I love the Columbia Valley and have built relationships throughout the different communities over the years.”
Miller, who lives in Invermere with her husband and four children ranging in age from three to 15, has worked with youth in various capacities and has found her niche getting to know them and understand their needs.
“My role is to connect with the youth in each (valley) community, encourage youth input as well as the challenges they have living in the Columbia Valley,” she explained. “Through collaboration with other programs and groups already in place, I hope to help meet more of the needs of youth throughout the valley.”
Electoral Area G Director Gerry Wilkie said he is pleased to see the youth voices will be not only heard but sought out throughout the entire process, and seeing the geographically separated valley communities working together is always incredibly positive.
“The CVYN will also offer our young people opportunities to socialize and participate in constructive activities outside of the school system,” said Wilkie.
Area F Director Wendy Booth echoed Wilkie’s sentiments.
“I think a key point is that this is another example of the valley working as one in providing programs that youth from all over the valley that can benefit, that are geared to their needs,” she said.
Hettie Seaman, program coordinator for The Edge in Edgewater, is looking forward to working with Miller.
“I’ve known Angela for many years, so it will be easy to work with her,” said Seaman. She and Miller will be looking at programs to run at the Edgwater youth centre that will also be convenient for parents.
The Edge (which the kids refer to as the Base as it is in the basement of the Edgewater Community Hall) has about 45 kids registered.
“We have three age groups, Grades 4 and 5, Grades 6 and 7 and then Grade 8 and up,” said Seaman. “We don’t get many teens but we do get some. We have about 20 kids show up regularly from the Edgewater, Radium and Brisco area.”
At the other end of the valley in Canal Flats, Amber Byklum, Secretary for Canal Flats Community Society, said she is also excited to see what the CVYN achieves.
“I was fortunate enough to have a great conversation with Angela not only about the needs of Canal Flats youth but also the needs within our valley,” said Byklum. “She is excited to establish relationships with the youth of Canal Flats this fall if not earlier. I’m excited to see what impact this new role will have on our youth of the Columbia Valley.”
Michelle d’Entremont, Manager of Grants and Programs for the CBT, said youth initiatives have always been supported by the trust, and over the years different approaches have been tried and evolved.
“We have had a lot of successes and learned a great deal,” she said.
After a successful pilot project involving multi-year funding that helped to identify challenges facing youth in the Columbia Basin, the CBT took what they learned and created the Basin Youth Network. The focus is on youth aged 12 to 18 and communities were invited to access it to form their own youth network to be driven by youth.
“We have 28 youth networks (throughout the basin), all with multi-year funding,” said d’Entremont. “Each one looks a little different and are at different stages. In some cases we are already seeing final reports (for the first year).
“Fund are limited for everyone,” she added. “The more we can collaborate, the better.”
Miller has been busy getting meet and greets set up in each community in the valley for the month of September.
“They will each take place between 5 and 7 p.m.,” she said. “This is for youth to come meet me, give input on what they feel they want to see in each community and how we can make that happen.”
Each free event will include food and an activity and Miller said she wants to encourage the youth to come out and give feedback.
The meetings will be (in order of south to north) Canal Flats, Sept. 18 at The Base Camp Coffee Shop; Fairmont Hot Springs, Sept. 21 at Fairmont Pizza and Ice Cream; Windermere, Sept. 14 at Ozzie’s Amusement Park; Invermere, Sept. 25 at Invermere Skateboard Park; Wilmer, Sept. 20 at the Wilmer Community Hall; Radium Hot Springs, Sept. 12 at Gerry’s Gelati/Leo Burrito; and Edgewater on Sept. 27 at the Edgewater Community Hall.
An October event at the Summit Youth Centre in Invermere will be planned after its move.
“The events will be listed on our Facebook page Columbia Valley Youth Network as well as announced throughout the schools the first week of September,” said Miller.
Already in the works is a logo contest.
“Draw or design a Logo for the CVYN for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate for Syndicate Boardshop” Miller added. “There is no limit to how many logos can be submitted per youth so each submission is another chance to win.”
Submission deadline is October 15.
Drop off locations for the contest are: The Base Camp Coffee Shop in Canal Flats; Summit Youth Centre in Invermere; Invermere Home Hardware; and Pips Country Store in Edgewater.
“I am very excited to take on this role and I look forward to meeting all of the youth and anyone that works with youth throughout the Columbia Valley,” said Miller. “I want to encourage anyone interested in more information about the Network to give me a call and introduce themselves. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-341-5216.”