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Group looking to reach out to local youth

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A small group of concerned citizens from across the district is looking at youth services in the area, and held a mini-summit Monday night to get some input from both youth and interested residents.

“The purpose is to explore ways to best serve the youth of our community,” said Erma Armit, who sits on and helped establish the Core Youth Steering Committee.

The group wants to get a sense of what services are already available, identify any gaps, and then try to fill them.

“We’re not here to replace any existing programs. It’s to encourage what’s going on,” noted committee member Clem Lehmann.

“It’s not competition for but complementing youth services in our communities,” agreed Rev. Andrew Hall, another committee member.

Besides the seven committee members, five youths and four adults attended the mini-summit held at 324 Victoria Ave. (the former St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church).

The guests answered a set of questions, including identifying any services currently available for youth, the challenges these services face, the challenges local youth face, the current needs of youth and youth services, and what is missing.

Committee member Debbie Friesen said she was pleased with the turnout, but felt the group still needed to consult with many more groups and interested parties.

“There’s still a lot more out there to discover,” she stressed.

Rev. Hall noted the committee is in an information-gathering stage right now. In addition to the mini-summit, it has distributed a Youth Concerns Survey to youth and adults in district communities.

“We’ll take tonight’s information and supplement the survey with that,” he said.

“We’re trying to get a broad spectrum of the community,” committee member Clare Brubacher noted.

The survey includes questions such as “What services for youth are available that develop healthy morals, values, and character?” and “How effective are these services?”

The survey also asks “How concerned are you about the morals, values, and character of teens in our community?” “What is your major concern?” and “How can your concerns be addressed?”

Rev. Hall said the group hopes to have the surveys processed and all information gathering completed in May. By the fall, they hope to identify any missing services for youths and try to fill the gap.

“We want to be able to say, ‘This is the service we see as needed’ and develop a strategy for how to implement that in the community,” he noted.

The end goal is to create a communication network among all youth services in the district so they can keep each other informed and “speak with one voice,” Lehmann said.

“Our mission statement is Christian-based, but not in any particular church or religion,” Armit noted.

“The heart of this group has been that we want to exist to better serve our community,” Rev. Hall said. “That’s really been the heartbeat.”

“We want community support but not just to push our agenda,” noted Friesen. “We want community support because we want to support the community, and reach teens who aren’t being reached.”

The group said one possible outcome of the study could be the identification of the need for a youth drop-in centre here or some other youth-oriented program.

Armit admitted funds would be needed for these projects, but that the committee still is in the early stages and has not yet looked at fundraising options.

Other members of the committee include Laura Godbout and Walter Rogoza.

Anyone interested in filling out a Youth Concerns Survey can contact Armit at 274-5051.

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