A rising tide of youth involvement in the North End is culminating in a unique chance for those same youth to have their voice heard in a big way.
The North End Youth Forum will come to the Friendship Centre at 45 Robinson St. on March 21.
The conference, which runs 4 to 8 p.m. that evening, invites youth to come out to speak to issues they think need to be addressed in the area.
Co-ordinating the event are the Livesafe Initiative’s Shanley Spence and Zena Anderson, who work out of the North End Community Renewal Corporation (NECRC) office on Selkirk Avenue. The forum, Anderson explains, is part of a five-year plan NECRC drew up for the neighbourhood in 2011.
"It was brought to their attention that the youth were going to be key in making the North End a safer place," Anderson said.
For Anderson and Spence, it comes down to three words they’ve been using in their presentations around the area: pride, passion and purpose.
"We need to get the youth involved in our change," Anderson said.
The forum, she explained, fits right in with NECRC’s mandate to promote "the social, economic and cultural renewal of the North End."
Spence and Anderson have been actively promoting the forum both through the event’s official website, northendyouthforum.com, on social media and through more traditional means, such as sending letters. They’ve also been encouraging local businesses and organizations to participate.
Anderson gave thanks to local artist Monique Osborne, who came up with the logo used in the forum’s promotional materials.
And as they’ve approached their target audience— people between the ages of 15 and 29— they’ve found there’s plenty of eager and willing participants.
"It’s been good. We had online registrations before we’d even started promoting it," Anderson said.
"I think they’re excited to be heard, to share their opinions and ideas."
Spence agrees, saying she’s noticed an increase in youth involvement in the area over the years.
"They’ve been wanting to get involved, and now we’re giving them the chance. They’re getting more excited to do so. This is a big opportunity to get out and make that change they’ve been wanting to see," she said.
The conference will feature keynote speaker Wab Kinew, a performance by the Sagkeeng’s Finest jigging troupe, and free food and drinks. Transportation will also be provided.
During the conference, the youth will be divided up into small breakout session groups to talk about issues facing the community.
The idea is to come out of the conference with a document, and a website, breaking down the suggestions and presenting some plans for the future.
Anderson felt confident the forum, a one-time event, will lead to big changes.
"It’s going to be a big moment," she said.
For more information, visit northendyouthforum.com or call 204-927-2348.