Youth in action: Engaging our next generation

August 16, 2016

In last week’s blog, we highlighted why youth engagement is so important, for youth and for the community. To recap: when youth are engaged, they will be healthier and happier, contributing to a strong and vibrant community. And who doesn’t want that?

At Public Health, we are committed to helping young people reach their full potential. To do this, we support community programs and services that create positive opportunities for youth to participate in. We do this because we know that when youth have opportunities to share their voice, they feel important, valued and respected.

One type of program we support is the Youth Action Councils (YACs) in North Wellington County. YACs are up and running in Mapleton and Wellington North, and one YAC in Minto is launching this fall. Young people between the ages of 14 and 24 are encouraged to join.
Youth sitting in a group

But you might be thinking…

What exactly is a Youth Action Council (YAC)?

YACs are youth-driven programs that youth can get involved in to make a difference on issues that affect them.

YACs give young people a chance to…

  • Plan and promote fun, youth-friendly activities and events.
  • Advise local council, businesses and organizations and share their ideas on how to make policies, programs and services more youth-friendly (for example, Public Health got feedback from the Mapleton YAC that is being used to help us develop our new website).
  • Take part in training opportunities to build leadership, project management and decision-making skills.
  • Give back to their community through volunteer work.
  • Learn more about the civic process of their local township council.

Did you know YACs are popular, even at a national level? Prime Minister Trudeau recognizes how important it is for youth to share their opinions on issues that affect them (like employment and education) so he created a Youth Council. After all, youth are the next generation that will be facing these issues, so they need to be involved in finding solutions.

But what do youth actually get out of it?

Youth sitting in group Here is what some youth in North Wellington had to say about their reasons for being involved in a YAC.

  1. They want to create a positive perception of youth. They want other people to see them as active, contributing members in their community.
  2. They want to plan youth-friendly opportunities. Youth want to organize activities and events that are tailored to the needs and interests of young people.
  3. They meet new friends. Through YAC meetings, events and activities, youth can make friends and connect with adult allies in the community.
  4. They want to create a safe space for youth. Youth want their peers to feel included and comfortable to be who they are.
  5. It’s a unique volunteer opportunity. All high school students need their 40 volunteer hours to graduate, so this is an excellent way to do this.
  6. They want to have fun while making a difference in the community. And we all need a little more fun in our lives, right?!

Do you know of any youth in North Wellington County that may be interested in joining a YAC? Are you a local business or organization that would be interested in getting youth input on your programs and services? If so, contact us at 1-800-265-7293 ext. 4244, we’d love to help!

Leslie Binnington & Meghan Wiles
Health Promotion Specialists