Local students who want to see change had the eyes and ears of several of the community’s most influential decision makers Wednesday morning.
The third annual West Kelowna Mayor’s Youth Forum took place at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary.
Local politicians, social workers, teachers and students put their heads together for the two-hour breakfast event to discuss the issues affecting young people.
Round table discussions focused on four major topics: Youth safety and security, transportation throughout the community, youth recognition and celebration and communication between the District of West Kelowna and School District 23.
Grade 11 MBSS student James Gabriel said the annual event is an important one for youth to have their voices heard.
“We had good communication today,” said Gabriel.
“I think it’s really good because it included the youth who think things need to be improved and then it (included) the people who can make those improvements.”
Gabriel said a lot of strong ideas came out of his table’s discussion at the event, including the implementation of a community awards ceremony for youth, which would recognize achievements other than athletic skills and academic grades.
He added the district would likely be able to better connect with students if they had a smartphone app that sent relevant information directly to students’ phones.
Other students commented on the need to increase security at bus stops, the unreliability of public transit and the lack of mental health resources in their schools.
West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater began Wednesday’s forum by giving the crowd a list of steps the district has already taken to provide some of the things youth have been asking for over the years, including: CNR Wharf improvements, an RCMP school liaison officer, preliminary work on a new skatepark and 2014 RapidBus transit with new bus exchanges.
Findlater said the lack of mental health services on the Westside is an issue the district has heard about several times, from various groups.
“We’ve heard from Joanne Konnert and the health centre report that we need better mental health service; we’ve heard from Elizabeth Fry Society and their study of women’s services; now we’ve heard from the youth community,” said Findlater.
“This is not a service provided by West Kelowna, nor should it be…but I think we have to go to work and start lobbying for a position through the provincial government.”
He noted communication has been one of the toughest issues to deal with.
“It’s difficult getting the word out…the website is there, lots of media releases, we have a Twitter account and a Facebook account,” said Findlater.
“There’s some obligation on the part of the general public and the general youth population to seek the information out. I think that’s what we have to work on as well: Telling people where they can go for information. And then they better go get it if they want to know what’s going on.”