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Vital Conversations with Youth

A Vital Conversation is a facilitated conversation with members of the community that can be used as a starting point of engagement with a Vital Signs report. In October 2016, Community Foundation Grey Bruce released its first Vital Signs report containing lots of statistical data on community vitality grouped around a diversity of indicators including health & wellness, living standards, arts & culture, environment, and community connections.

In terms of issues arising from Vital Signs, one statistic in particular spoke about the issue of youth retention: “on average, less than 60% of Grey Bruce youth do not expect to find a job or live in the region after school.”  It has been documented in many studies that, in general, rural youth don’t hold positive perceptions of their home community in comparison to life in a larger city. Youth feel that rural living means limited economic or social standing, and a lack of opportunities. Youth equate financial success, educational opportunity and high social status with urban living.
This issue gives rise to a number of pertinent questions: What type of changes to our community would youth like to see?  What would increase their sense of belonging and inclusion?  What would attract more youth to return home to build a life and start a family?  All of these questions formed the need for a Vital Conversation with our youth in Grey Bruce.
This November, with support from Alliance 150 and Community Foundations of Canada, Community Foundation Grey Bruce held Vital Conversations with young people to talk about this issue and any other that they brought to the fore. We worked with youth facilitators, Jason Cranny and Melri Wright on convening two meetings, the first on November 16 at the Youth Drop In Centre and Trades Start program run by the Salvation Army in Wiarton. The second meeting was held on November 20 at the Launch Pad Youth Activity Centre in Hanover. We had 25 participants in Wiarton and 21 in Hanover.  Students from 5 local high schools, both Bluewater and Catholic Boards represented, as well as a group from the Flex Program at Georgian College. At both meetings, youth were invited to consider what it takes to be a leader and what advocacy means. They also got to speak out in a Town Hall format, engage in creative expression through artmaking, and to imagine the ideal youth centre by building it in LEGO through a workshop led by Grey County Representatives.
The feedback we heard at Vital Conversations will serve as a record of a check in on the quality of life for youth in Grey Bruce. In the coming weeks, we’ll be working with a few of the participants on prioritizing the outcomes and talking about a couple of the big picture issues that emerged from the sessions. The insights gleaned help the Foundation in its work towards the release of a mini-Vital Signs report on Grey Bruce youth in October 2018. What we hope to see emerge are the indicators of community vitality that young people see as essential to a fulfilled life in Grey Bruce.

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