If the full details on Morinville’s municipal census have shown us anything it is that Morinville is a young community. Seventeen per cent of our population is between the ages of 25 and 34. The median age for a Morinville resident is 33.6 years of age, a figure consistent with data revealed in the previous census. Another 17 per cent of our community is made up of residents between the ages of 12 and 24.
Now if you paid careful attention to the words used in that last sentence you will realize people under the age of 24 have been referred to as residents – not children, not kids, tweens, teens or adolescents . They have purposely been referred to as residents, something many of us who have more steps behind us than we have left ahead of us fail to remember from time to time.
A few years ago one of the local groups did a study on youth in Morinville and Legal and learned the majority of our youth do not feel valued in their own community. Now we will be the first to say all this overemphasis on self-esteem the past three decades or so is as over the top as putting hand sanitizer dispensers at every entrance and exit, but a young person ought to feel valued in their community and in their own home. And if they don’t, we sure as hell need to make that change and fast.
There are 8,504 people in this community – 608 of them are between the ages of 12 and 17, and while that may be insufficient numbers for an investor to open a teen-friendly business in town, it is sufficient numbers for the existing business community to rally together to see what can be done to provide our youth with something to do and something to be a part of – something that says you are residents, you are citizens, and you are valued.
Some excellent work is being done by Morinville’s Community Services and Family and support Services Department – work that began in January and will be unfolded over the coming months and well into the new year. As those initiatives unfold, it is certain organizations and businesses will come on board to lend support and offer suggestions; however, it is important for those of us that would take part to ask our youth for their input. Not only will it show they are valued, it will give us the right information to make the right activities and programs for them.
The now defunct teen centre is defunct because our teenage residents did not buy into it, did not feel it was theirs. And as Amy Dribnenky, Morinville’s FCSS coordinator said during Tuesday night’s council meeting – “If they will not come to us, we will go to them.”
An excellent attitude, and one formed by a person who knows full well that youth are not kept informed by conventional means. Large two-page advertising spreads in weekly newspapers do not inform our youth. It is the instant beep and boop of social media that keeps their thumbs on the pulse of what is going on. Ambassadors are most effective when they speak the language of the people they are trying to reach, and we would do well to remember that here.
If we are a young community, we need to embrace young ideas. To get those young ideas we all need to start listening to those a little younger than us.