Conference targets youth challenges in Surrey

December 04, 2015

Youth in Surrey generally feel unprepared for entering the workforce or post-secondary education, often lack basic life skills and are impacted by a lack services such as transportation.

These were some of the challenges up for discussion at Surrey’s inaugural Youth Engagement Conference, hosted by the city’s Team for Youth Leadership and Engagement (STYLE) at SFU’s Surrey campus on Nov. 28.

More than 150 participants took the opportunity to take a close look at data from the most recent Vital Signs report, a survey of 400 youths between 12-24 that revealed their feelings about their future beyond high school, their life skills, and other challenges. The SurreyCares Community Foundation produced the report.

Young people attending the conference commented on the value of sharing their perspectives on issues and say the more interaction there is with youth, “the bigger impact we can make.”

Corina Carroll, manager of counseling services for DIVERSity, says: “What we’ve heard historically from youth is that Surrey lacks a youth focus. This conference challenged that belief. It made the ‘youth voice’ a priority through engaging youth interns, coordinators and participants. I hope that this practice continues and serves as a model for other communities that have yet to prioritize the voice of youth.”

Participant Darren Mumford, director of youth engagement for the YMCA, says the conference provided a “great indication of the potential in our youth. I hope it becomes a catalyst for fully engaging this important resource in our community.”

Conference participants included youth and parents, and representatives from government, business and the non-profit sector.

SFU student Trisha Dulku, a youth engagement facilitator for STYLE, says it’s important to create a dialogue to better communicate with and support local youth.

“Between age 12-24 is a time of huge change and transition for youth—a time when they are discovering who they are and where they belong,” says Dulku, a world literature and history major at SFU. She was among youths who helped gather data and write an editorial on identity and belonging for the Vital Signs report.

“We hope that the constructive feedback gathered from youth in our community will help us work together with other interested adults to improve the transition to adulthood.”

Rachel Nelson, coordinator, community relations and engagement at SFU’s Surrey campus, says the impact of the discussions will be monitored moving forward.

“This will start a conversation around supporting youth transitions in Surrey, but we also hope it will draw further interest and a commitment to the process. We hope everyone will be inspired to stay involved."

The event was supported by a collaboration of youth-serving agencies from across Surrey, including the City of Surrey, SD36, Options, Pacific Community Resources Society the Vancouver Foundation, the Valley Youth Partnership for Engagement & Respect (VYPER), the SFU Surrey – TD Community Engagement Centre (CEC) and others.