The Ruttle Report - Time for Youth to Have a Say

I think we adults can sometimes grossly underestimate teenagers and what they can contribute to our functioning, everyday society.

To be even more honest, I think kids have more brains than some grown adults when it comes to life in these modern times, be it out there in the world or within our own community circles.

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I cover a lot of different school events in my job, whether it’s sports such as basketball, football or volleyball, but then there are other things such as whenever the high school hosts its annual Remembrance Day service, or when the younger Grade Six students put together a makeshift ‘FolkFest’ afternoon that highlights different cultures and traditions.  Sometimes it’s taking in what the young thespians of the community are offering in the form of drama productions and musical shows.

In all of my interactions with the youth of this community in nearly 13 years, one constant remains at the forefront of my mind after every conversation – kids are smarter and brighter than most of us will ever give them credit for, and they have a perspective on the world and their community that perhaps should be explored more often.

The provincial government took steps in late 2019 to give young people a platform to be heard.  Last October, Deputy Premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant announced the twelve members of the 2019-20 Provincial Youth Council, a group of high school students “committed to improving their communities and empowering other young people in the province.”

As members of the Council, the teens are afforded the opportunity to address meaningful issues directly with Minister Wyant and other government officials and provide guidance on how to better engage students around the province.  Comprised of students in Grades 11 and 12, they each sit on the Council for a term of one school year.

Looking at the names on the list, it seems to be a varied bunch of boys and girls from different communities across Saskatchewan.  However, it’s a little disappointing to see that not one name comes from a school within the local Sun West School Division.  I guess there was just that much competition in the ranks and the pool was already quite deep with students wanting to join up.  Maybe next year, I suppose.

However, one nearby community is offering its own platform for its youth to be heard and have a voice.  The town council of Rosetown approved an idea last summer to have a student attend their meetings and join in their deliberations in order to offer a perspective from the younger people of the community.

The student can participate freely in discussions, but they have no voting power in any decisions that are made.  Council also approved creating a post-secondary scholarship of $500 to those who serve in the position and who attend at least ten meetings a year.

Amanda McPhee, a Grade 10 student at Rosetown Central High School who serves as the secretary of her school’s Student Representative Council (SRC), sat in on council’s January 20 meeting.  She told the Rosetown Eagle newspaper that her experience at the meeting was good and that it was interesting to hear everything that was discussed and what goes into making decisions that affect the whole community.

Amanda essentially made history by being Rosetown’s first youth member of town council.

So, this raises the obvious question – does Outlook’s town council offer the same thing?  Do they put the word out to both Outlook and LCBI High School and search for an interested student to sit in on their discussions and provide a perspective of the youth of this community?

My vote is yes.

I think that the powers that be in this community – or any community, really – do believe that they take into account the best interests of every resident, but all too often it seems that most conversations still operate within the “adults only” parameters and sometimes there isn’t much thought over how certain decisions will affect local youth over time.

That’s why things like a Provincial Youth Council or a local student sitting in on town council meetings are so unique.  It’s a chance for young people to soak up a wealth of knowledge when it comes to how the community they call home is being operated, and it’s a chance for local officials to hear the views of someone from the current generation.

We adults have to remember that we’re leaving *all* of this behind to these younger generations.  Don’t you think it’s a good idea to get some feedback from them NOW on how things are currently shaping up?  When we’re all older and gone, don’t we want them to still be here in the first place?

From my perspective, it’s time that younger people have more of a say in the towns that they’re growing up in.

For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.

© The Outlook

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