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Amherst, Cumberland County challenging idle youth

[From left] Kaylem Isadore, Austin Cormier and River Sears-Tower are some of the youth enjoying a game of ringette courtesy of the Town of Amherst’s free After The Bell Skating program
[From left] Kaylem Isadore, Austin Cormier and River Sears-Tower are some of the youth enjoying a game of ringette courtesy of the Town of Amherst’s free After The Bell Skating program - Christopher Gooding

Free skating, winter activities encourage youth to put down phones

Experts feel youth are spending more time on their phones and playing video games after school but in Amherst and parts of Cumberland County that’s hard to do.

The Town of Amherst accepted the challenges found in the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity, especially that more youth are leading more sedentary lives, and have organized three months of winter activing with its After The Bell Skating program four days of the week.

“The overall objective of the program is to increase activity in school children, with a focus on ages 12 to 15,” Active Living Coordinator Tamara Porter said. “We wanted to try and offer something new and at little-to-no cost.”

Thanks to a Sport Nova Scotia grant, youth are able to enjoy skating, ringette shinny hockey and outdoor snowshoeing when the conditions are ideal. The program is not exclusive to teenagers, Porter says, and skating aids and smaller snowshoes are available for younger children.

The drop-in program runs from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. Mondays, Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays. At the Amherst Arena until March 23.

Attendance has been relatively well, but Porter hopes to see more young women participating.

“We try to help promote the female aspect because studies show females are less active as well, so offering ringette and snow shoe hopefully gives them more opportunity to try,” Porter said. “The studies show that after the age of 12 the rate [of activity] decreases.”

Helping bridge that gap, the YMCA of Cumberland is currently offering its own After The Bell program. Beginning Jan. 8, the YMCA is offering six week of activities two days a week in Amherst and two days in Pugwash, with a focus on enrolling young women between the ages of 12 and 15. The aim of the program, program coordinator Andrea Comeau said, is to get outside and be active.

“We offer skating, and snowshoeing when there’s snow. We’re also planning on geocaching,” Comeau said.
After the six weeks wraps up in Amherst and Pugwash the program will move to Springhill and Parrsboro and then Oxford and River Hebert after that.
So far, Comeau the experience has been netting positive results.

“Once they get here they have so much fun,” Comeau said. “We get them to put the phones away and get to know each other... the goal focuses on girls because in school or gym class boys tend to take over, but girls feel more comfortable with girls.”

When the program comes to its final days, Comeau says all of the participants will be able to attend a visit to TreeGo in Moncton for the program’s wrap-up.

To learn more about the Town of Amherst or Cumberland YMCA after school programs visit www.facebook.com/townofamherstns or www.facebook.com/YMCAofCumberland.

Christopher.gooding@amherstnews.ca

@ADNchris

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