A group of eight teens in Cambridge Bay is determined to give young people in their community a stronger voice.
“The youth want to see more activities, stay healthy and stay out of trouble, [like] stealing alcohol from their families,” says 13-year-old Sasha Evetalegak.
She is part of the mayor’s new youth advisory council.
Formed in January, following the hamlet’s declaration that 2017 be the ‘Year of the Youth,’ the group isn’t just symbolic.
Each member has been sworn into council. They get paid to attend regular council meetings, and manage their own agenda and finances.
“I always felt like I didn’t have a say in things in my community,” says Courtney Nakahok, 17, and the group’s chair.
“But since I’ve been on the mayor’s youth advisory committee I’ve seen a lot of changes in myself and also in the community.”
Since the new year, the teens have carried out a youth needs assessment by surveying senior high school students.
Sports, mental health issues and drug and alcohol addictions ranked among the top priorities for youth, especially since the youth centre has been closed for renovations.
The youth council is calling for a BMX park and a new baseball diamond to give young people more positive activities to keep busy. It’s also planning a Cambridge Bay hockey day for this month, and a school of rock this summer.
A mock plebiscite also found young people agree a beer and wine store is needed in their community to help manage binge drinking. The results mirror those from a real vote in the community May 1. The youth council plans to share its research with council and territorial ministers.
“If the parents spend less money on alcohol, the parents will have more money to buy food and clothes for their children,” says 13-year-old Carter Lear.
The hamlet hired a youth ambassador, former teacher Randy Briand, to help the teens reach their goals.
Other communities have been calling the hamlet to find out more about the group.
Bailey Evetalegak, 15, says she’s just getting started.
“I’m excited to see their reactions of how we want to change this community for the youth.”
“We’re being the voices of the youth,” says Lear. “Letting the mayor know what’s going on and she can make changes.”