Welcome, tell us who you are and where you are from.
I am Ashley Stevenson, from Oakville, one of the co-chairs of the Halton Youth Voices Council.
How did Halton Youth Voices Council come together?
We started with an organization called Our Kids Network. They had a project on youth called the Halton Youth Initiative. That project had four different groups; a group called North Oakville Youth Development Council, Seven Somebodies (Acton Council), Milton Youth Action Team and the Aldershot Youth Crew. When COVID hit, we had to go to a different platform, so we switched to an on-line platform where all the groups joined together and anyone else who wanted to join could come. From there we split off into different teams. I was part of the creative spaces team.
“The project was youth-led, with youth identifying local issues and identifying strategies for possible solutions. Activities were grounded in an asset-based approach and focused on relationship building.”
– Halton Youth Initiative Website
Even though we split off, we were all more connected than we were before in a way because we could talk to others from other parts of the region.
After working on a few projects, we restructured again, and I joined the Sustainability Group. This one was formed because the three-year project was ending. My group was trying to figure out the legacy. Do we want it to end here? Nobody wanted that, so we decided to make the Halton Youth Voices Council. We knew we wanted to make an all-youth council of people who were passionate about the things that brought us together through the initial project. We wanted to keep it going.
What were the goals of the Halton Youth Initiative?
They had three goals:
- Making sure youth know about resources in Halton,
- Promoting youth voices, making sure adults know what matters to youth, and
- Creating positive youth hang out spaces and activities.
It was really all about building community relationships.
How did you get involved and why have you stayed involved with the group’s evolution?
It’s a funny story for me. I joined not too late after it started. I was part of the North Oakville Youth Development Council. I was asked by my principal if I was interested in joining this council. I was in grade eight. I had no idea what it was about…The project coordinator had reached out to her, and they got me. I was told it would be a great opportunity. I was super excited to do it. I joined because it was a leadership opportunity.
But why did I stay? I love leadership opportunities. But it stood for so much more. We had a community BBQ shortly after I joined. I got to meet so many people. I love meeting the adult alleys. That was so fun for me. I loved planning and putting on the event and meeting all the people that came.
How many youth are involved in the new group, Halton Youth Voices Council and what are your meetings like?
There are about 25 to 30 on the team right now. It’s been more and been less.
We meet on discord. It used to be on Zoom. There was funding for the year. But the funding ran out, so we had to switch. We tried some different platforms, but we need break out rooms, so we went to Discord where you can make channels. We have our main meeting call and the different subcommittee calls and there are different talking channels too. We meet every week for an hour.
Although the group has some of the contacts from the initial project, the current council meets without adult allies now. The Halton Youth Voices Council is entirely youth led.
What have you been working on over the past year are you all working on now that you are excited about?
The subcommittees have all done interesting things. The science group one just wrapped up. They were working on a lot, like the Fun fact Friday posts also working on an app to monitor heart health. They were collaborating on a real-world app. It didn’t work out, but they were close, and it was a really good experience for them to try. That group also has a science podcast.
The equity team focused on social media posts to share heritage information, to raise awareness of different cultural groups in Halton.
The health team was also focused on social media providing information on mental health and well- being. They also did a big virtual event. A high school guide for incoming grade nines. They got a lot of participation in the event. I thought it was cool. It was like the one we did in person before the pandemic, but on-line. The chair of that group reached out to “success teachers” at the different high schools and elementary schools, and they helped to spread the word. We even had parents reaching out to find out how to sign up.
Right now, we are focused on recruitment for next year. Our co-chairs are stepping down. A lot of people are graduating this year (but staying involved as adult allies, so we will have that just like we did in the past). I’m excited to see how the three new chairs who have already stepped into those roles handle things, they all have a lot of great ideas.
What are your hopes and dreams for this group going forward?
I hope that they keep doing what they are doing but I hope that they get back to in person events. I hope they recruit more students from across Halton. I’d love to see more youth from Halton Hills. Expansion is always a goal.
One cool thing is that we had a meeting with Effie Triantafilopoulos, one of our Halton Members of Provincial Parliament. I’d like them to do more cool things like that. Meeting with people that can make a difference. She really wanted to hear from a youth perspective. I love it when we give input and people are listening.
Is there anything you’d want from the broader community for the Halton Youth Voices Council?
We are always looking for volunteers, and other youth who are committed and want to work with us to promote wellbeing and equity. Other people and groups can follow us on social media and share our posts. If we have an event. We want the community to join us.
From where you stand. What would be the best thing that could possibly happen for HYVC?
The best possible thing for the group is to be a well-known name, a group people want to be part of and the community sees us as a go-to group so they can hear from youth voices. We want people to care about what youth have to say.
You can follow Halton Youth Voices Council at @haltonyouthvc on Instagram.
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