Youth Talks: HEAR US OUT! North Oakville Youth Council event

Developmental Relationships Framework in Action with Youth in North Oakville

By Siobhan Laverdiere, Our Kids Network, North Oakville Youth Project Coordinator

On March 3, the North Oakville Youth Development Council (YDC) hosted their very first event and Youth Talks: Hear Us Out was a resounding success! Youth in North Oakville and beyond shared their thoughts and opinions about topics that were important to them; and took the opportunity to connect and build relationships with adults in the community. The event was produced by the Youth Development Council, and supported by the YDC valued adult allies and Our Kids Network.

Over 75 adults, youth and children attended – and the adult attendees were definitely engaged in hearing what youth had to say:

“The community of Oakville is a better place with the leadership of the youth I heard tonight.”

“Very interesting, diverse and meaningful presentation/event.”

“Great that you were able to bring youth and adults together.”

YVM event adult attendees

Adults in the audience took the opportunity to ask questions directly of youth which opened up communication; applauded their presentations; and made sure to record the event.

Some of the most meaningful feedback on the event came from the youth who planned and participated in the event. Their comments are reflective of the Developmental Relationships framework which centres on surrounding young people with relationships that can help them develop strengths such as positive identity and commitment to their community. These relationships include those with family, schools, community programs and neighbourhoods.

There are five key categories:
1. Expressing Care towards youth
2. Challenging growth in youth
3. Providing youth with support
4. Sharing power with youth
5. Expanding possibilities for youth

What did youth have to say about how planning and participating in the event made them feel?

Did you feel cared about to some degree while participating in this event?
YDC members who produced the event said that the adult allies were very supportive of them during the planning process. The adults in the audience were also very encouraging by engaging in the conversations. They also expressed that they appreciated what youth had to say.

Youth speakers said
“I felt that my opinion was quite valued and that they (adults) understood many of the concepts brought up in my speech/ the event.”

“While participating in this event I felt valued because for around 8 minutes I had the stage. It was my turn to speak and I could share my opinions about world issues and what I thought with the community.”

Youth presenters at event

Left: Giovanna Gerada, a Grade 9 student, gave a tutorial to the audience about how to draw. Centre: Talia Nicholls provided adults with information about the benefits of social media. Talia is in Grade 8. Right: Teresa Baricevic, talked to adults about life as a youth in 2018. Teresa is a Grade 9 student.

Did participating in Youth Talks: Hear Us Out challenge your growth as an individual? Why or why not?
Youth council members said that planning this event (which, for some, was their first event-planning experience) encouraged them to think of new ideas because of the support of adult allies. It was also mentioned by one YDC member that an event planning template brought by an adult ally really helped in understanding how event planning was done. Other youth council members gained experience in working with audio-visual equipment, and public relations (social media) to promote the event.

Youth speakers said
“Yes it helped me learn about more than just a few issues us as youth go through…”

“Prior to the event my thoughts and opinions were expressed only to my parents, occasionally. After my speech I felt empowered, I realized that although I am a youth, grown-ups care about my perspective and want to listen.”

Did you feel supported by adults while participating in the event? Why or why not?
YDC members said they felt that the completion and success of the event achieved the goal they were aiming for.

Youth speakers said
“I felt quite supported and happy that they understood my points and that they wanted to learn more to educate themselves,”

“While at the event I was extremely nervous about speaking in front of a room full of people. But because of my supportive parents and the lovely adults present there I was able to achieve something special.”

Youth presenters at YVM event

Left: Grade 8 students talked about Equality vs. Equity (L to R): Ethan Morgan, Sebastian Mazhari, Aidan Riddell, Gabriela Richards. Right: Charlotte Muileboom explained the importance of understanding and accepting LGBTQ+ youth.

Did you think that the power was shared between adults and youth when you planned and/or participated in the event? Why or why not?
YDC members felt adults and youth worked together on various aspects of planning for the event. It wasn’t an adult event – it was a “youth working with adults” event.

Youth speakers said
“Yes they both (youth and adults) seemed to understand that there is much more to our youth than we think and that they can “hear us out!”

“When my speech ended, I looked up and saw the glowing faces of my audience. After listening to my experience the adults were excited to share theirs. The rest of the evening I heard many stories from grown-ups about their childhood which were all very relatable.”

By participating in this event, did it expand your possibilities in any way? Why or why not?
YDC members believed that this event encouraged them to take on duties that were new to them and gave them even more experience in collaborating with others. They felt that that this event helped to build their confidence in talking to adults.

Youth speakers said
“The event allowed me to meet wonderful people and inspired me to go out there and make my mark on the world because youth and adults alike are willing to listen.”

The North Oakville YDC’s first event was a great success, but more importantly, it intentionally brought youth and adults together to build meaningful relationships and to show youth that they are greatly valued in our community.

A special thank you to Teresa B. and Hargun R. for their contributions.

For more information, contact Siobhan Laverdiere, Our Kids Network North Oakville Youth Project Coordinator, at siobhan@ourkidsnetwork.ca