Guest column: Youth shares her experience with YES Project

A young leader in Penticton shares her thoughts on building a youth centre

I am writing to offer my endorsement for the youth centre and to provide a perspective from a young person about the importance of ensuring this project is successful.

The experiences we have as children and young adults will be ones that develop our confidence, understanding and strengths for the remainder of our lives. Youth are heavily impacted by the environment and society they are raised within; they grow and change according to the support and opportunities they receive, both from those close to them and from the broader community.

Related: Youth centre fundraising cracks $1 million milestone

For the past five years, I have been a member of the YES Project, acting as a youth advisor and steering committee member. I joined the YES Project in response to the crisis that many young people in our community were and still are facing. I was 13 when I first noticed many peers struggling with self-expression and others developing mental health issues that were going untreated. Throughout my four years of high school, several close friends and too many young acquaintances of mine took their own lives. I was deeply concerned about the health and well-being of my peers but knew there were few resources for them to access and limited awareness of the scope of the problem.

Around the same time, several community organizations came together to create the YES Project and to begin the work of creating a youth centre. I can honestly say that the work harnessed by the momentum of the YES Project has touched my life and the lives of hundreds of youth that have and will continue to receive the benefits from their commitments.

With the platform provided to me from the YES Project, I could speak with and on behalf of many youth in Penticton. I was able to connect and communicate with community leaders, organization members and speak face to face with the decision makers of my own region. I feel very grateful for this opportunity and I would like to extend my thanks to our city, its representatives and all the individuals working to hear and acknowledge the voice of the younger generation. This opportunity grew into something bigger than I could have ever imagined. Through this work, I was able to connect with folks of other generations and in turn strengthen the intergenerational connects in our community. In particular, many older citizens have reached out to me with their support and opportunities, eager to help in any way they can. This impact is immense and I believe it has been the most influential shift in the societal perceptions our community holds.

Related: Penticton Youth Centre gains key resource

The YES Project isn’t just a movement, it’s a prime example of what real youth engagement looks like. As a youth advisor and steering committee member, I was able to speak with my own voice. I was given a platform and all the tools needed to engage with my generation and prove that young people are driven, passionate leaders. The inspiring people behind the YES Project saw my potential, they allowed me to grow and they gave me confidence and hope I will never take for granted. This project is special. It is the future of youth success in our valley and it is undeniably the best avenue for support and resources to be shared. The project is strong, stable and will continue to better the lives of every member of our community; young or old, we are all affected by the health of the youth demographic.

As I move on from the valley and attend university this year, I am left hopeful that the youth of tomorrow will find even more support in Penticton. Although our town has suffered terrible loss, we have grown closer through a commitment to kindness and understanding. Our community is strong and it has proven to be a resilient place of hope, acceptance and opportunity. We have come a long way, but there is still work to be done. Our community needs a youth centre; a hub of resources dedicated to helping all young people achieve their goals and reach their full potential. We are still facing crisis. We are still losing young lives and this hurts me more than words can express By donating to the youth centre, you are investing in our best chance at helping youth in crisis. You are funding a place of hope for our generation’s future.

Related: Penticton Youth Centre fundraising campaign begins

As members of our community, we have the power to raise a generation of empowered and supported young individuals. We all hold the responsibility to enact a community environment of positive perceptions and societal acceptance. Some say that the youth are the leaders of tomorrow, but for our leaders to be strong, independent and hopeful individuals, we must invest in them while they grow, learn and develop skills that will change the world.

Help YES build a much-needed youth resource centre in Penticton for our youth, for our future. We need to raise $3 million and have raised over $1 million so far. Together as a community we can support our youth. Donations of any size are being accepted for the Penticton Youth Centre by the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan|Similkameen. All donations will receive a charitable tax receipt and and can be made online at www.cfso.net or by calling the community foundation office at 250-493-9311.

Victoria Ritchie, is 18 years old and a YES youth advisor and previously a YES Project steering committee member.

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