by Tristan Turner
photos by Lucie Roy
Morinville’s Youth Leadership group, a Town program designed to engage young people in local issues, made their first major presentation to Council at their Committee of the Whole meeting to universal praise from Council. The group, entirely made up of youth aged 12-14, presented to Council their concerns and action plans to deal with two major concerns to them: tobacco/vaping use and mental health.
Seven members of the group spoke to Council, along with youth worker Erin Debusschere, largely focusing on mental health.
Members of the group talked about some statistics about how widespread mental health issues are among young people in Canada, and talked about finding ways to get parents and children talking about mental health hardships.
After questions from council, group members confirmed that they would be opening up facilitated group discussions and seminars about mental health issues, and focus on getting parents and students over the uncomfortable first steps in opening up about struggles. One member of the Youth Council said: “Both parents and youth can often find talking about mental health overwhelming and communicating about these issues can be awkward and uncomfortable, creating barriers to treatment.”
The group also spent some time discussing the impact of tobacco and vaping products have had on minors in the community.
After sharing some national statistics about underage tobacco use, youth councillors noted that they would be starting a campaign to collect anonymous survey data from youth at Morinville schools and use that information to drive a student education campaign about the risks associated with smoking.
The group also reported other projects they completed this year, including organizing a formal dance and a public campaign around Pink Shirt Day, an anti-bullying initiative.
Council had high praise for their presenters, with universal acclaim from each member.
Deputy Mayor Dafoe jokingly commented: “Council, I want to point out that presentation took exactly [five minutes], adults in the room, please take note.”
Every council offered comments of praise for the group, including Councillor Scott Richardson who said: “The work you guys are doing is excellent, and it’s good to see young faces in the community embracing initiatives like this, so thank you.”
Council expressed their commitment to assisting the youth in their initiatives any way they could.