Youth town council could take lead role in strategy
© Darrell Cole - Cumberlandnewsnow.com
Dr. Lena Walker speaks to members of Amherst town council on Monday.
AMHERST – Re-establishing a youth drop-in centre and a young network have been identified as priorities by the town’s young people, says a consultant hired to develop a youth strategy for Amherst.
Dr. Lena Walker held a focus group and a series of meetings with young people in the community over the past several months and introduced her recommendations to council during its committee-of-the-whole meeting on Monday.
“Some of this can be done in 30 days for less than $5,000. All the recommendations could be implemented in a year, especially if the town owns a piece of property that it could use for a youth centre,” Walker told council.
Along with a youth-led network, Walker suggested creating a mentoring database, creating youth leadership and outreach training so young people can take the ball and run with it into the future.
“The Amherst Youth Town Council is well positioned to develop the network and a future visions for youth website can be put together to help connect the pieces for a minimal cost and not take that long,” Walker said.
She also recommends a comprehensive public awareness campaign about youth issues.
Walker said the town has many “fantastic assets” that can be build upon to close the gaps that have been identified by young people who feel as though their opinions and needs aren’t being met by the community.
She suggested that a lot of work needs to done to close the gaps identified by young people and that includes more co-operation and understanding by adults and young people. Key is listening to young people and allowing them to be part of the solution,” Walker said.
Coun. Robert Bird, who played a key role in creating the youth council after the 2008 election, asked Walker what the next steps are in implementing a youth strategy.
Walker said one of the first steps would be to bring a group of youth together with a group of adults to set the ball in motion. She said some of her recommendations can be done in just a month.
Coun. Terry Rhindress said he’s looking forward to moving forward, but added the last youth centre didn’t go well because there wasn’t a lot of buy-in from young people.
“We have to take our time to make sure we do it right,” Rhindress said.
Coun. George Baker is looking forward to reading Walker’s report, adding it could build on some of the programs already in place, such as those offered by the Cumberland YMCA.
Mayor Robert Small suggested council take the time to read Walker’s report before any decisions are made. He said a youth strategy remains a priority for council and needs to be implemented.