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Youths desire systemic change to make communities safer, report finds

A new report, research and authored by the Synergy Youth and Community Development Society, has recently been published.
City council has denied funding for a school-based anti-bullying program called Dare to Care.

The findings of a new report authored by the Synergy Youth and Community Development Society are stark and definite, and speak to the growing voices of youth in Rocky View County (RVC) communities that just don't feel safe where they live.

The Youth Safer Communities Focus Group Report has undergone a nearly four year research process and accounts for the opinions and thoughts of nearly 87 youths in Langdon and Chestermere. 

"In September 2020," the Synergy said on its website, "a coalition representing the health, education, recreation, faith, social services, voluntary, business, and government sectors came together in response to the tragic suicide of a local youth.  After several structured conversations, regarding youth aggression and safety, a partnership was formed with the intention of making a difference in the way our adult community responds to these concerning matters.”

“[The report] outlines what different levels and systems in our communities are implicated in the recommendations,” said Hanna Mughal, the report’s main author and project researcher. “This is a system wide change that we're looking at creating because these issues impact everyday experiences in every sort of space in our community. Next steps are going to be to find ways to implement and act on these recommendations at every level and system in our community." 

Mughal and the other project researchers conducted youth focus groups in Langdon and over the length of the research project, they drew some major conclusions about what youth sought out of their communities. 

According to Mughal, the youth she spoke to want to prioritize making community spaces in Langdon safer. They want to develop better relationships with their peers to curb bullying, and they want to lessen the stigma around discussions of mental health and well-being.

The teens she talked to told Mughal about different ways they wanted to improve facilities and programming in their communities.

“Having a rec centre or certain programming in rec centres or having creative programs out in the community," Mughal said. "This range of programs all enhances a sense of connection and belonging in communities and therefore supports well-being.” 

"Youth are the experts in their experience and they deserve to have a voice in the changes that are made for them,” said Mughal. “Adults generating solutions for problems or thinking that they have the full picture of the youth experience isn't necessarily true." 

"We hope that Langdon and other RVC communities involve youth more in decision making and really respond to the things that they ask for in the stories that they've shared," she said. "Everyone is implicated in this, it's a community-wide issue and we hope that we do see that shift in the culture of our communities that the youth have called for.” 

The full report is available on the Synergy website. Community members are welcome to attend a May 15 meeting at the Lifepath Centre for Community Leadership to learn more.  


Riley Stovka

About the Author: Riley Stovka

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