The report pairs well with the revealing statistics found in this 2019 infographic produced by Sooke School District's Healthy Schools, Healthy People program.
The new study is intended to determine what youth services might be considered for the still entirely conditional, grant-dependent Elders' Complex/seniors rental co-housing combo planned for the newly rezoned northeast quadrant of our town centre Lot A. [This project has its roots, it need be repeated, in the long-term dream/drive of the Sooke Seniors Drop-In Centre Society to find a permanent home. SRCHN's 2014 Getting It Built report captured community needs and wishes. The objective was ratified in the 2014 plebiscite that found 3,072 Sooke voters favourably inclined (vs. 631 against) to the question: “Would you support the District of Sooke working with the community to develop multi-use community centre facilities?” The Sooke Community Centre Advisory Committee (2016/17) moved things along nicely, and a prime spot on public land next to the new library was formalized in the Lot A Report (2019).]
In brief, as the Executive Summary in the new report states:
"● Youth and youth service providers are inspired by, and willing to engage with, youth programming in the new facility.
● Healthy, artistic, and entertaining youth programming is needed in Sooke.
● Youth have an abundance of ideas for creating an inclusive space, art, life skills, health, recreation, and intergenerational programming.
● Youth have an understanding of the barriers which would prevent youth from coming to a program and how to manage solutions.
● Youth Service Providers are interested in helping with staffing and organizational support.
● Youth Service Providers do not support a dedicated youth space.
● There is a need for more mental health services for youth in Sooke."
Statistics Canada reports in the 2016 census that there are 3,085 residents under the age of 19 in Sooke ~ 775 of them aged 10-14 and 760 aged 15-19. Boys outnumber girls marginally (as is the case nationally and internationally for sound evolutionary reasons.)
In a perfect world, a young, full-time "Youth Navigator" would be hired to work with his/her/their near-peers. That would include establishing the ideal hang-out space the surveyed teenagers desire: a comfortable, safe clubhouse which they've helped conceptualize and would have a significant hand in managing ... a space with free Wi-Fi, snacks, couches, board games, recreation, art supplies, movie nights, health/sexual/LGBTQ education, and workshops on cooking, coding, graphic design, car maintenance, and the basics of "adulting" ( i.e., job skills, finances, first aid). Also to include a surely beloved and pampered resident animal/therapy dog/pet or three.
Yet this is a rather imperfect world, needless to say. The respondents' "most common answer, when asked about issues in Sooke, is that it is boring, or there is nothing to do." They report that "they feel disconnected and unrepresented." (I felt the same way eons ago as a teenager in fringe-suburban Ottawa, an hour's bus ride from downtown. I don't recall anyone asking my opinion and that's one huge change for the better between then and now.)
More worryingly, the service providers note the growing, only partially COVID-related tide of anxiety and isolation; that youth are not connecting with "heathy role model mentors"; and they lack help in accessing mental health and addictions support. "Suicide is not openly discussed as an issue."
Until funding does eventually one likely distant day become available for a dedicated youth navigator of the sort you'll find in larger communities, the encouraging news is that reps from the aforementioned service providers are prepared to volunteer their own necessarily limited time to work further with Sooke youth, including providing part-time staffing during youth hours and programming at the Elder's Complex.
Better still, there is keen interest in intergenerational mentoring that would find elders (or "olders"; see this The Atlantic article "What's The Best Term for Referring to Old People") spending quality time one-on-one with young people, each side of the age divide gifting the other with their skills and wisdom in mutually beneficial, evolving relationships. Some of the focus group youth were already doing this pre-COVID at Ayre Manor, and they were energized by the experience -- hearing life stories, sharing their own and trading lessons on computer/cel phone skills and arts/crafts. (No prizes for guessing which demo taught what to who, says the relic who still struggles with text messaging.)
SRCHN's Age-Friendly Committee, to which I'm council's appointee, is mandated to explore the needs of all generations in Sooke. It was founded in 2014 after Sooke attained Age-Friendly Community status with the Province, and follows up on local efforts that date at least back to the Sooke Over-60s Club formed just after WWII.
At a recent meeting, SEAPARC recreation coordinator Megan McKeigan shared insights into the facility's own youth centre, which opened in 1994 and ran until approx. 2002. She attended it as a youth and, post-graduation, became its youth leader. It was open on a limited evening basis within SEAPARC itself before relocating to a portable. A $2 movie was screened regularly, and pool, foozball and air hockey tables were popular. Friday nights would attract 20 youth on average, she said, about a third of the number that attended the skate in the rink. When the pool opened in the early 2000s, it became SEAPARC's biggest drawing card. The program was transitioned to a multi-purpose space that lacked fixtures and personality (or, as termed in the latest survey, "vibes," about which respondents are "obsessed -- lighting is (a) huge" issue to them.)
I'm not a parent, so I've no first-hand knowledge of today's (or yesterday's) teens. I have been involved with the EMCS Society since 2013, however, and have learned about the caring, inclusive, empowering nature of modern schools from board regulars like Principals Pat Swinburnson and Laura Fulton, the Society's Anne Bell and its former co-coordinator Ebony Logins, trustees Bob Phillips, Margot Swinburnson, Neil Poirier and Allison Watson, and various board members with direct educational experience. This, plus a "no kid left behind" policy in keeping the disadvantaged engaged and fed (via the "Munch Card" program, for instance, that provides free breakfasts and lunches in the cafe to the approx. 10% of students who leave home hungry). And the fact that every student is given every opportunity to identify and blaze their own academic paths forward.
(I'm particularly taken with the BC Ministry of Education's Core Competencies K-12 curriculum that ensures children and youth acquire essential social, interpersonal, mental and communication skills. Staggering to think of how many hard lessons could have been avoided had this been available to my generation. Training in mindfulness, as is now increasingly practised in the school system, would have helped too.)
All well and good for my own adult education, but the only clue I really have about being a teenager was that I qualified as such once upon a rather long time ago. This was an epoch when TV was the lone screen option and my collection of books and LPs were a prime pastime once I'd arrived home from tag football in the park and tennis matches with my pals. (All a secondary focus to homework, naturally -- i still see the kind but firm look in my late father's eyes as i rose from the dinner table each night and headed back to my cave, there to either rock out or crack the textbooks, a feat that could be managed simultaneously, I'd argue.)
I will testify that navigating those years wasn't easy for me for a bunch of reasons. A drop-in community youth centre would have been welcome, I'm sure, if I'd found the courage to overcome my shyness and participate. There may have been one in downtown Ottawa, but certainly not in my end of Nepean. I'd have also appreciated a mentor outside my immediate family. Or, for that matter, a guidance councillor as savvy, connected and purposeful as those at EMCS.
Anyway, I'll close, once again, with a whispered prayer to the grant god(esse)s at BC Housing and the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. We'll hear the application results, I'm told, by summer for the housing component and later this year for the provincial/federal grant to partially fund the Elders' Complex.
- Youth Centres Canada + list of 75+ Canadian youth centres with website links (some broken)
(Insta-analysis: SEAPARC, its bike skills park and the skate park fill many of the recreational and programming functions of other centres)
- EMCS Society Programs - Youth For Sooke website page + Facebook
- The Youth Engagement Project: A Youth Perspective on Developing a Youth-Friendly Sooke (2013, file attached below)
- Human Early Learning Partnership EDI Wave 7 Sooke School District #62 Report - "an overview of patterns and trends in early child development for Wave 7 (2016-2019) and explores change over time from Wave 2 (2004-2007)" + PDF
- Sooke School District #62
- Edward Milne Community School
- Journey Middle School
- Sooke Elementary School
- John Muir Elementary School
- Ecole Poirier Elementary
- Saseenos Elementary
- SD #62: Strategic Plan: 2018-21
- SD #62: Long-Range Facilities Plan (2018)
- SD #62: New Schools (current focus on Langford due to rapid population growth; within Sooke itself, the promised Sunriver Elementary is on the books for 2027 or hopefully earlier; seismic upgrades (or ideally a new build) are pending for Sooke Elementary, the oldest school in the province; and there are question marks over the future of Saseenos Elementary, home of the extremely popular Nature Kindergarden program, one of the first of its kind in Canada when introduced in 2012)
- SD #62 Healthy Schools, Healthy People program + sample newsletter
- SD #62 Mental Health resources
- Sooke Schools International Students Program
- Safe Paths to Schools: Sooke Report (2016)
- Sooke Soccer Youth Programs + other local sports leagues
- Sooke PocketNews Youth Archive
- BC Ministry of Children and Family Services ~ Child and Family Services Offices for Sooke
~ Sooke Region Volunteer Centre Children & Youth website page
- Sooke Families: A Site For Parents In Sooke by Parents in Sooke (not updated since 2013, but useful)
- University of Victoria Centre for Youth & Society's Community Resource Hub: Sooke page
- EMCS Society 2015 Community Grant Application (see pp. 41 onwards; includes 2012/2013 Sooke Youth Council Annual Report, the 2013 Youth Friendly Business Project and the 2014 Sooke Youth Engagement Report)
- Sooke Youth Council Seeking Members (Sooke News Mirror, 2012)
Age-Friendly Sooke & Elsewhere
- District of Sooke Age-Friendly Action Plan (2015)
- District of Sooke Community Health website page
- Sooke Region Communities Health Network Strategic Plan, 2019-2022
- Sooke Community Health Care Services Planning Report (2018)
- Open House Community Feedback + Poster boards (June 16, 2018)
- Sooke Community Health Summit 2016 Report
- Managing At Home: A Study of Sooke Seniors Planning To Remain In Their Own Homes (2015)
- Sooke Age-Friendly Dialogue Report (2008)
- Sooke: An Age-Friendly Community: What Can We Do? (Sooke EDC & Sooke Harbour Chamber of Commerce, 2008)
- An Accessibility & Inclusiveness Study For the District of Sooke (2008)
- Sooke Region Community Health Report (2006)
- University of Victoria Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health
- Province of BC: Age-Friendly Communities
- BC Healthy Communities: Age-Friendly Capacity Building
- World Health Organization: Global Age-Friendly Cities - A Guide + Age-Friendly Cities Checklist
- UBCM Best Practices + Youth Engagement Toolkit Guide (2012)
- FCM Municipal Youth Engagement Handbook
- UVic/Province of BC Toolkit
- Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Heath - Youth Engagement
- Pan-Canadian Joint Symposium for School Health - Youth Engagement Toolkit
- 100 To Zero: Age-Friendly Planning (Plassurban, Victoria)
- Maple Ridge Youth Development Wheel
- BC Chamber of Commerce: A Focus On Youth Entrepreneurship (2020)
- A Seat At The Table: A Review of Youth Engagement in Vancouver (McCreay Centre Society, 2009)
- National League of Cities (US): Promoting Youth Participation
- Local Government Awareness Week (last half of May annually)
- City of Calgary Mayor's Youth Council
- City of Victoria Youth Council
- City of Duncan Junior Council + Terms of Reference + Article + sample minutes
- Squamish Youth Strategy
- Screen Time and Activity Among Canadian Youth (Stats Can, 2017)
- Exercise and Screen Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Stats Can, 2020)
- Family Influence: The ParticipACTION Report Card For Children and Youth (2020)
- Better With Age: The ParticipACTION Report Card for Adults (2019)
- Canada's Youth Policy (2020) + Young Canadians resource page
- UN International Youth Day (annually on Aug. 12 since 2000)
- UN Youth 2030: Youth Strategy
- A Pathway To Hope: A Roadmap For Mental Health and Addictions Care (Province of BC)
- Mental Health Commission of Canada: Mental Health Strategy for Youth (2016)
- BC Children's Hospital Kelty Mental Health Centre: Youth and Young Adults
- CMHA BC: Youth Helping Youth (Peer Support)