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#AskSendzik: Youth have ideas for city’s future

#AskSendzik: Youth have ideas for city’s future

#AskSendzik: Youth have ideas for city’s future

#AskSendzik: Youth have ideas for city’s future

(More photos from the Youth Forum on my Facebook Page)

March 23, 2017

By Karena Walter

Originally appeared in the St. Catharines Standard

Watch the March 23 #AskSendzik Chat discussion about the St. Catharines Youth Forum

The first St. Catharines Youth Forum generated many worthwhile ideas for the city to consider, from creating mental wellness spaces to communicating more through Instagram and Snapchat, Mayor Walter Sendzik says.

“There’s a lot of work ahead for us but I think this youth forum really does set the path for where we need to go to ensure we’re engaging young people in how we build our city,” Sendzik said Thursday during his monthly online chat #AskSendzik at The Standard.

The full chat with the mayor can be viewed below.

The “Your future, your city” forum Wednesday at FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre brought together 150 young people from high schools and post secondary institutions.

They were invited by the city to share their thoughts about mental well-being, entrepreneurship, inclusive community building and community engagement.

“This is their city,” Sendzik said. “We wanted to have their voice at the table to be able to tell us as a municipality, where do they see the opportunities in front of the city and where do they want to see the city go into its future? So it was really exciting to be there.”

The mayor’s office has hosted two older adult forums in the past and plans to hold another youth forum next year.

Sendzik said youth have their own little communities at school but they don’t necessarily feel part of the St. Catharines community. The forum was an attempt to reach out on a larger scale and say this is their city.

“We have to put an emphasis on young people and older adults because they’re the ones that tend to get marginalized when we have larger discussions about where the community is going,” he said.

The forum featured young speakers and break-out sessions for participants. Sendzik said one of the ideas that came out of the mental wellness discussion was how the city could create mental wellness spaces. Youth were advocating for spaces where they could go hang out and turn off their minds from hectic life.

He said the city can take that idea back to staff and look at what it can do in its libraries, recreational centres and arenas to create those types of spaces. “That was a great light switch that went on,” he said.

When it comes to engagement, young people said they wanted to get involved in the community but pointed out a gap in figuring out how to do so outside of high school volunteer programs. Sendzik said the city will work with the school boards to develop a better way to show youth what kind of community groups are out there and how they can get involved with them.

“What we got from this is that they really want to get involved in the community, they just want to know how. They understand that there’s a lot to do. They just want to be a part of and create more awareness on how they do it.

Participants also said they want the city to talk to them through the channels they use, such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

A report will come to council about the ideas that were generated at the forum with recommendations.

During the chat with the mayor Thursday, Sendzik discussed the St. Patrick’s Day problems on Jacobson Avenue in St. Catharines, Regional transit and a city tree management plan. Readers can send questions in for the next chat in April by Tweeting ahead of time with the hashtag #AskSendzik.