Young people heard at West Kelowna Mayor’s Youth Forum

Students from West Kelowna and Peachland met with elected officials Tuesday morning for the second annual Mayor's Youth Forum.

Mayor Doug Findlater (top right) discusses youth issues with his table at the second annual Mayor's Youth Forum at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary Tuesday.

Baby Boomers speak a different language than Generation Z.

That gap in communication was one of the main issues brought forward at the second annual Mayor’s Youth Forum, held at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary Tuesday morning.

Representatives from both demographics—and the generations between—sat together to discuss issues affecting young people.

The purpose of the event was to give young people from local schools an opportunity to express their concerns to elected officials from the District of West Kelowna, Peachland and Westbank First Nation, social workers, teachers and others who work with youth throughout the community.

“I think that students were comfortable in voicing their opinions on a wide variety of issues,” said Irene Maier, department head of student leadership at Mount Boucherie.

“I think the adults in the room were open to receiving the input that they were getting.”

A concern repeated throughout the session was that the medium used to get information to young people currently isn’t working.

At last year’s forum, students complained about a lack of recreational opportunities available for teenagers. They acknowledged the district’s book of recreational programs, but noted the formerly labelled “leisure guide” sounded like an activity book for their grandparents.

With that in mind, recreation staff at the District of West Kelowna renamed the booklet: West Kelowna Recreation Guide. They also added more youth-friendly programs and lowered the minimum age on a number of classes to 14-years-old.

Despite this, attendance didn’t seem to rise significantly.

This year, several students suggested perhaps the problem is the way the programs are advertised and said they would be more inclined to participate in an activity if they read about it online.

They also suggested utilizing intermediary student leadership groups to inform them about events instead of posting notices on the district’s website or Facebook page.

“Some of them said if it comes from the District of West Kelowna, it’s too bureaucratic,” said Mayor Doug Findlater.

“I think we have to sit down with them and design some ways where we can get the information out.”

The West Kelowna mayor said it’s a good idea for the district to continually tune into the concerns of the younger demographic.

“It’s important that we hear from young people, what their issues are. The themes are recurring, but I think we made some progress on it.

“I know staff were taking copious notes and we’re going to receive some proposals to address some of the issues raised.”

Evie Mansell was one of the students who took part in Tuesday’s forum.

She was encouraged by the quality of examples brought forward by the students.

“There were lots of good discussions; a lot of the young people in our groups had good ideas,” said Mansell.

According to Maier, young people are beginning to realize the influence they can have on local decision makers.

Two years ago, a group of students from Mount Boucherie spoke to council members about the need for a school liaison officer in West Kelowna.

Their voices were heard and this year Const. Sherri Lund is roaming the halls of local schools full-time.

“When they saw action as a result of their voice, it made a huge impact on them,” said Maier.

“Whenever they see (Const.) Lund in the school, they say, ‘We did that,’ and they feel really good about that.”