Youth Make a Strong Impression

Councilors Sentes, Konanz, Martin and I attended the Pen Hi leadership class the other week and met with about 60 students. While my high school days are now 29 years in the past, I still remember them vividly.  We didn't have cell phones, the internet or social media, but just like today's youth we battled peer pressure, self-esteem, our parents, stress, teachers, popularity, career choices and not knowing what we wanted out of life.

It was interesting to hear the kids’ perspectives on what the best aspects of life in Penticton are and the biggest issues our local youth are facing. Most spoke about the beaches, our beautiful natural surroundings and how Penticton is a great place to grow up. One common theme expressed by several students was a lack of activities geared towards youth to help channel them away from other pressures such as smoking, drugs or alcohol.  It was pointed out that there are many options available for young kids, adults and seniors, but very little for youth.

I was impressed with the student's passion for the City, even though a majority of them plan on leaving after graduation to further their education and explore life in a bigger city, or just experience new surroundings.  Having our kids leave after high school has always been a sore spot and limited work opportunities and educational options are always perceived as the primary reasons. It is only natural that kids want to assert their independence and experience life, and while some of our kids are drawn to larger centers, there are also kids from both smaller and larger communities that are drawn to life in Penticton.

We need to work harder on creating an environment that will draw our kids home after they have had a chance to explore the world, expand their horizons and experience life in some other places. We need to demonstrate that there are career options, housing options and lifestyle amenities to complement their desire to raise a family in their hometown, work locally and get away from the hustle and bustle of the big City.  Our aim should be to foster a setting where it's attractive and realistic for our children to return in their 20's or 30's instead of in their retirement years.

Many of our youth are already taking an active role in our community and I was greatly encouraged by the recent efforts of two Pen Hi students. Victoria Ritchie is very passionate about environmental issues and has been actively involved in volunteering with the Renewable Energy Summit happening at Pen Hi this Saturday, April 22 from 9:00 to 4:00. Victoria also hosted an environmental forum with government officials this week. To affect change you need to engage political will and raise awareness with the public to change their mindset, habits and tolerances.

Ikjot Kahlon is another Pen Hi student and he played a key role in organizing Penticton's first ever Vaisakhi Day parade. Having our youth getting involved to honor and share the traditions, heritage, and cultural diversity within our community will help draw us all closer together. We can talk all we want about creating a welcoming and diverse community, but it still takes someone to champion the cause and organize with other like-minded people to see a vision become a reality.

We still need to do more to bridge the gap between the young and the old and overcome the outdated notion held by some that all youth are troublemakers. We need to support our youth and future leaders by reinforcing and cultivating their value and contributions to our community. We must embrace and celebrate their enthusiasm, energy, and desire to make Penticton a better place.