Youth Strategy will be good for Guelph

As Guelph continues to grow, our most valuable asset as a community, our youth, are being increasingly
marginalized. Negative stereotypes still prevail. Further challenges may affect youth who are
marginalized due to factors such as colour, sexual orientation, ability and ethnicity, and even the basic
needs of many, like a safe, supportive environment, is also not being fully met.

The approach in which we have traditionally answered these issues has been re-active, finding short term
solutions to existing problems. It is crucial that there is a radical shift in our approach and thinking.
Solutions need to be pro-active, and we as a community need to ask ourselves, What do young people need in order to navigate successfully from childhood, and adolescence to adulthood? What do we as community and business leaders, as mentors, as parents need to provide so that every young person is able to achieve their potential and become contributing member of this community. Out of these questions has grown a vision for youth.

The Community Youth Strategy is the product of an extensive multi-year consultation process that
included community groups, youth service agencies, and youth themselves, to define the needs of Guelphs
young people and to identify a sustainable long term community based approach to addressing those needs.

The result of this consultation was to an enhanced vision that focuses energy, creativity and community
resources on youth development. It builds on past initiatives over the last few years. It has mapped out
an effective plan of action as well as its long term implementation. The report includes background
information, an overview of the community consultation process, key findings, and recommendations for the 4 stage plan, and the keys to its success.

This strategy will work to give youth a stronger voice when advocating for decisions that affect them and
their peers. It will bring community groups and youth service providers together through more collaboration and coordination of youth services. By doing so, we can enhance, expand and create new and exciting opportunities and safe places for our young people that go beyond recreational and towards more
accessible services and life skills. Most importantly, youth of all cultures and diversities will have equal opportunity to access programs and services. These are the fundamental principals and directions that are the basis of this strategy and are very achievable.

As ideas emerge and the momentum builds in the next few years, the initiatives carried out under this
strategy will keep changing and growing. This is exactly as it should be. This is how the potential of
the Guelph Community Youth Strategy will be realized.

The strategy will be implemented over the next 5 years. The 1st phase is the creation of the Guelph
Youth Action Team.

The Guelph Youth Action Team immenses amazing potential. It will bring youth and adults together and
shows young people that they are an important and respected part of the community. Instead of feeling
like they are on the outside, more and more young Guelphities will be on the inside contributing to new
plans and solutions that will affect them, their friends, and other young people from across Guelph
that they care about but may never have a chance to meet.

The life of every young person in Guelph is a building block in our future. Their futures are intimately tied to all our futures, and the future of our great city. That skateboarder may well be the craftsman who helps build your next house and coach local soccer team. Those two girls on the corner may have positions on City Council and a school board. The crowds of kids that the store owner eyes suspiciously are actually student leaders who will one day be business leaders.
And, hopefully, the abused or neglected teen down the street will get the help that is the difference
between being a contributor to, or being a drain on, the community.

The Guelph Community Youth Strategy is about potential the positive potential that rests within every one
of Guelph youth, and the collective potential of the thousands of leaders, staff, and volunteers of this
city. It is an overall strategy that brings together all of these people and service areas of our city to
make Guelph the best possible place for a young person to grow up and see their potential flourish.

The bottom line is that a city that is a great place for young people is a great place for all ages. All
Guelph citizens benefit from communities intentionally designed to reduce social problems. Seniors appreciate a good public transit system as much as teens who will need it to access school, work, recreational and social agencies; a safe downtown and family oriented neighbourhoods with equitable access to leisure and learning opportunities benefit everyone; and programs that reduce youth problems through early intervention help individual young people and families, while making the whole city a more secure and less costly place to live, work, and play.

This strategy is about trust and belief we have in our youth aged 13 to 18. It is about building
relationships in ways we never imagined. It believes that today preparation determines tomorrow
achievements.

Our city and each person in it will only have one future. We have a chance to make those futures the
best they can be.

This article appeared in the Guelph Mercury in July/August 2003 as part of the 2003 Editorial Board.

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