Since January, the Multicultural Youth Council, in affiliation with the United Native Friendship Centre here, has been making cross-cultural understanding among local teens its top priority.
Now the council has been given the chance to really shine when it brings youth groups from across the region to the Northwestern Ontario Youth Summit here March 26-28.
“The idea behind it is for all the teens in the area to get together and discuss what being a teen is all about,” said MYC president Erin McMahon.
Helping McMahon bring the summit together over the past two months have been Ashley Burghardt (vice-president), Nick Bruyere (cultural co-ordinator), Jen Rodegard (social co-ordinator), Adrian Indian (recreational co-ordinator), and Mandy Selman (educational co-ordinator).
The group has lined up a series of speakers on subjects relevant to teens.
After opening ceremonies and an evening of mixing and mingling on March 26, the summit will get down to business on the Saturday morning when Peggy Loyie of Aboriginal Healing and Wellness holds an HIV/AIDS workshop.
“Kids don’t really know about AIDS and the diseases you can get from having sex,” noted McMahon. “It’s important to learn about.”
Later that day, Connie Peterson, a family court worker, will discuss teen violence.
“Teen violence is also important because there are a lot of fights that go on between cultures,” stressed McMahon. “We’ve got to stop the violence if we want to improve people’s perceptions of youths.”
After a youth fundraising workshop presented by UNFC executive director Sheila McMahon, and a fetal alcohol syndrome seminar by aboriginal family support worker Tracy Blasky, Brad Kirkrude Sr. will lead a discussion on teens and alcohol.
“Another thing we want to do is fight drug and alcohol abuse,” McMahon said. “We want teens to find out that it’s a kind of abuse that can affect your entire life.”
Those attending the summit will get a chance to speak out after supper on the Saturday evening when a spokesperson from every group on hand must make a 15-minute presentation on problems facing youth in their communities.
The summit will wrap up on the Sunday with closing remarks after a brunch at the UNFC.
Clearly proud of the MYC’s achievements so far, UNFC youth program co-ordinator Brad Herbert said the current council membership, which formed only late last year, was truly impressive.
“This year, we have some hard-core kids who are really interested in changing the community perception of youths,” he remarked.
Besides planning the summit, the council has continued its community services, including planning events like the Veterans’ Day pow-wow, holiday festivities, and volunteer work.
It also offers regular youth programming like tutoring, “gym night,” and bi-weekly meetings.
Youth aged 14-21 are welcome to get involved, and can drop by the UNFC anytime to talk to someone about the council.
“All races are invited to join—all you have to do is sign up,” invited McMahon.