By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A woman popular with many Morinville youth will no longer be a familiar face in the Town of Morinville’s Community Services Department. A. D. Richardson, who began with the department last October, submitted her resignation July 25. Her final day is Aug. 8.
Richardson, easily identified and identifiable with youth with her piercings, multiple tattoos, and office full of pop culture images and quotations from people she finds inspiring, was employed on a part time basis at a time when the Town of Morinville was actively engaged in connecting with the community’s youth. Richardson’s first day was the day before the community brought motivational speaker Ian Hill to town to show how all aspects of the community could better work with youth.
In her short tenure with the town, Richardson worked to implement programs that would resonate with youth in Morinville. Her Youth in Action Committee had branches at Primeau and MCHS and strived to get youth involved in their community. Although not all of
Richardson’s programs were well attended, there was a wide variety of activities over the past nine months. Early in her position she orchestrated a day of silence at the high school in solidarity with youth in other countries that have no voice. She also advocated for the then abandoned Teen Centre and reopened it for occasional programing. While many of the programs were as simple as movie and video game nights, those who worked with Richardson say she brought her own personality and broad experience to the table to
coordinate teen dances, road trips and a heavy metal rock show at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre.
Whether it was a movie night for youth and their families, dodge ball for junior high students or an opportunity to try sledge hockey, another event Richardson brought to town, the cumulative effect of multiple youth-focused activities was designed to build community and involve youth in it.
Looking to follow a dream
Richardson said the decision to resign from her post was not made lightly and that she wanted to be sure the youth of Morinville with whom she interacted the past nine months were not left with the impression she had abandoned them. Her Youth Worker Facebook page, which is not affiliated with the Town, will remain so she can stay connected with those she’s got to know in the community.
“It was really difficult to decide to leave the Town of Morinville because I really have enjoyed my job, and I really have liked the opportunities Amy [Dribnenky] and Mel[onie Dziwenka] have given me,” Richardson said a day after submitting her resignation. “[They gave me] chances to not do what I wanted to do but do what I think needs to be done. They’ve been really supportive which has been amazing. I just feel like my time is done there and the things that I want to do are not necessarily going to be what I’ll be allowed to do. So I’ve chosen to leave.”
Richardson said she is going to take a step back from the community and social services industry because the profession takes a lot out of those involved in it due to the level of caring people drawn to the industry naturally put into their work. “It’s really difficult to do the job that you do without unconditional support,” Richardson said, adding it is difficult for people to sometimes understand why programs are not happening or why ones that are happening aren’t as successful as they could be. “There isn’t a money tree. It’s also difficult to do things and for them not to succeed. A big thing the youth need to understand is if they want things to happen they need to start supporting it.”
But lack of funding or lack of youth support is not why Richardson has left her post; she is going to pursue her ambitions to become a professional artist.
Richardson said one thing she has learned during her time with the Town of Morinville is to not let someone make you feel inadequate. “When I was 18, I let someone tell me that I wasn’t good enough and that I wasn’t a good artist, and that I would never succeed in the art world,” she said. “That really damaged me and now eight years later I’ve decided that man was wrong.”
Although she works in a variety of artistic mediums already, her real passion is to become a tattoo artist. Richardson is accepting a position in the oil and gas industry to earn the money to go to school to fulfil her goals.
“Most people when they see me and see my artwork that I do, they say, ‘That’s what you should be doing,’” Richardson said. “It’s scary. It’s scary to start something new, and it’s something completely brand new.”
More work with youth needed
Although she has her future hopes laid out ahead of her, she has concerns about the future of what she is leaving behind. Richardson said she is fearful her departure from what was already just a part time position may prompt the Town of Morinville to sweep the
position under the rug. “I hope that my leaving doesn’t make the Town say, ‘Okay, we’re done with youth,’” she said. “I think a lot of people don’t want to see that happen. I think the community and many people with the Town want to see youth things happen.”
Travis Loseth, Morinville’s Youth Volunteer of the Year, and a young man who worked closely with Richardson during her time at the post, is hoping the Town will continue its efforts on behalf of the community’s youth.
“It’s sad to see her leave, but knowing what she wants to do, her tattoo designs, I’m happy for her,” Loseth said. “She started the Youth in Action and got us all involved in different things.”
Loseth said he feels the next youth worker has some big shoes to fill and hopes the Town of Morinville employs someone who resonates as well with youth as Richardson did. “Someone closer to our age – someone who probably just got out of school is easy to relate to,” Loseth explained.
Morinville’s Director of Community Services, Kerry Dawson, said everyone in the Community Services Department is sorry to see the youth worker go and that she felt Richardson was a real asset to the team. On a personal note, Dawson said she found Richardson to be quite a character, a likeable person who was always making people laugh and always thinking outside the box to come up with creative and innovative programming for youth.