PARRSBORO - Constable Dal Hutchinson did not need to look far to find a group of young people in Parrsboro committed to dealing with issues in their community. The town has had a youth town council in place for about 14 years.
So it was only fitting that the council agreed to serve as an advisory committee for the local RCMP, with Hutchinson serving as their liaison with the local police force.
"Across the province we initiated an approach to get out and meet with young people in the communities that we police, and to hear from them what the issues are," said Hutchinson, community police officer for the Cumberland RCMP.
As a result of the initial outreach, youth advisory groups have been set up in Oxford, Parrsboro, Pugwash and River Hebert.
"In Parrsboro we saw the work that the youth town council has already been doing for a number of years," said Hutchinson. "They are well established, and they do a lot of activities in the community, so we saw them as a group to work with."
Meeting since the fall, the Parrsboro group has identified a number of issues they are concerned with, including bullying and impaired driving. But the first priority they have chosen to focus on is the positive promotion of local youth.
"We knew there had been a lot of negative attention on youth in the town, and there had already been a lot of attention on bullying and in the past on impaired driving," said group member Sarah Colpitts. "But we thought it was time to focus more on the positives of the youth and bring them to a better light."
Such activities are already under way. A sign on Main Street displays photos of local youth engaged in a number of positive activities, while there are always a number of sporting events, dances and fund-raisers on the go. In addition, they are looking at more ways to keep the public informed of their activities, including a monthly article that will appear in The Citizen-Record. They also provided a presentation to a community meeting hosted by the Parrsboro Lions Club on Feb. 13.
"It's not that we need to do more, but we need to advertise how much we do," explained group member Shelby Leopold.
Other priorities they have looked at have included sprucing up the recreation area at the former Scott mill property. They have discovered that the poor condition of the cement makes improvements to that site a little more challenging than expected, but the idea remains on the backburner.
One of the end goals of the initiative is to gain more interest from other young people in the community, and get them involved in activities such as the youth town council.
"I think we're heading in the right direction to promote the positives," said Hutchinson. "A great way to start is by getting out into the public, and showing through the newspaper column and other avenues down the road, that we're trying to get the message out and other youth involved."