National Youth Week

Plenty at play throughout National Youth Week

PAULA TERRY-LANCASTER
SPECIAL TO THE EXAMINER

For a fifth consecutive year, National Youth Week will run in Barrie from May 1 to May 7, and the city has a full roster of activities in which youth aged 11 to 19 are invited to participate.

The event, which runs under the auspices of the City of Barrie, is a collaborative celebration of young people with a working committee of several organizations whose mandate is to serve youth in our community.

Barrie has now achieved the Play Works’ Bronze award which recognizes it formally as a youth-friendly community. Play Works is a joint venture of a number of organizations committed to helping youth by encouraging and promoting a greater investment in youth play. This includes sport, drama, music, dance, leadership development, physical activity, civic engagement and volunteerism.

Barrie is now one of 32 communities in Ontario to have been awarded this designation, which, according to Jessica Wolfe, youth programmer for the city, means that Barrie is doing great work in providing continuous access to a diversity of ‘play’ for young people aged 13 to 19.

When we think of ‘play’, many of us summon up images of toddlers, Lego blocks, six-year-olds dressed as princesses or 10- year-olds digging out snow forts. In fact, Play Works reminds us that ‘play’ is also about learning and growth.

A game of chess ignites reasoning. A run in the park helps build endurance and strength. Volunteering at a gallery or an old people’s home helps develop social responsibility.

Play is crucial for the social, physical, intellectual, emotional and civic development of our young people.

In short, play works.

Initiatives such as National Youth Week are important, as well as cost-effective, because economic cutbacks have resulted in places to play becoming less accessible to adolescents across the country.

Many unsupervised activities for youth are seen as ‘too risky,’ but declining levels of youth participation in positive activities can lead to more crime, drug use, loitering and poor health, as witnessed by the 50% increase in childhood obesity levels over the last 15 years.

Anything that gets teenagers positively involved in their communities reaps significant benefits to everyone.

Working in partnership with the Mental Health & Addiction Services, the YMCA, the United Way, the Community Health Centre and Simcoe Community Services, the city has a whole host of events planned for the first week of May, most of them free of charge.

Highlights will include a dodgeball game vs. the Barrie Police, several girls-only workshops, a job fair/volunteer tradeshow, extreme sports demos, a band night at the Barrie Public Library and a youth-endorsed Barrie’s Best Pizza competition.

The Simcoe Muskoka YMCA, long a champion of young people, will also celebrate its expansion on May 3 into a fully-accessible ground floor suite at 49 High St., across from Central Collegiate. A full range of drop-in services for teenagers will be available at the new location.

The full program of events for this year’s National Youth Week is available at www.barrie.ca.More information on Play Works can be found at www.playworkspartnership.ca.

Paula Terry-Lancaster is the owner of Write First Time, a freelance writing consultancy based in Barrie.