Investing in activities for young people will pay dividends in Wellesley Township, says a new report released this week to councillors.
A year in the making, the study is the work of Wellesley’s youth advisory council. The findings were presented Tuesday night by Scarlet Antaya and four youths. Entitled “project movement” the report examines youth activities in the township, suggesting possible improvements.
“Why is this project important? It is throughout the literature that investing in community-wide programming for youth activities leads to social development. It also helps develop preventative factors to help get involved and engage with others. It bolsters self esteem and healthy self image,” said Antaya.
The study found that many of Wellesley’s young people are bored, lacking structured ways to spend their time. The fear is that boredom can lead youths to participate in harmful activities. It also highlighted some possible improvements to activities offered in the township and showed examples of successful youth-oriented programs offered elsewhere.
During the year of observation, researchers found many examples of how youth can spend their time, presenting councillors with examples like the skate park in Kitchener and the Fusion youth activity and technology centre in Ingersoll.
While acknowledging something on the scale of the Fusion centre is not possible in Wellesley, Coun. Jim Olender cited it as a great example of youth-oriented efforts by Ingersoll’s councillors, who started the project.
“We certainly can’t have that, there’s no way, but there are things there that you can have,” he said.
“This could happen not only in Wellesley [village] but all over the township,” added Mayor Ross Kelterborn of possible initiatives. “We had meetings quite a few years ago … where we were talking about these things.”
Carla Wilker of the advisory council said the study stemmed from those earlier discussions, but was much more concentrated and focused.
Wilker, along with Wellesley Township Community Health Centre interns, collaborated with the executive director of Opportunities Waterloo Region to submit a proposal for the study to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. Organizers received a grant from the foundation to fund the project and hired project coordinator Benjamin Hesch. The advisory council proceeded in providing direction to researchers.
Coun. Herb Neher encouraged the group to seek support outside of Wellesley Village and create networks throughout the township in order to bolster efforts for future developments of youth activities.
Research for the project included short interviews with community members and youth centre staff, asking them what they thought was missing from youth activities in the township and which pass times were most popular with local young people. Interviewees were then placed into three focus groups for the study. Researchers looked at what is available for youth now and what Wellesley could look like in 10 years.
Findings show many people feel activities in Wellesley are geared towards younger children. Other focus groups called for more youth activities, not just sports like hockey and soccer.