Youth summit seeks to address Calgary youth crisis

Summit lead Deborah Wong. Photo credit: Deborah Wong for Livewire Calgary

Calgary’s Future is hoping to get more city youth involved in charting the course for Calgary – with youth in mind.

On June 25 and June 26 the Youth Summit is hosting a free online summit for Calgarians aged 16 to 25. The event is led by Deborah Wong who works with Calgary’s Future to advocate for more youth involvement in Calgary.

“I started this summit because it is so important to bring together youth to talk about issues that are the most important and see how we can make Calgary better,” said Wong.

Youth crisis

According to the civic census from 2009 to 2019, the 20 to 24-year-old population in Calgary has dropped by 5.5 percent. Every other age group has grown. 

“I feel that a lot of the time a lot of decisions are being made without youth voices. If you look at city hall and how they make decisions it seems that youth voices are excluded from those conversations,” said Wong.

Wong moved to Calgary from Hong Kong as a international student at the age of 15. She was inspired to start the event when she noticed that a lot of youth needs were not being met.

“I talked to various youth-serving organizations and found that there were multiple issues that the youths were facing. Things like diversity, inclusion and accessible transit. I felt that that was my call to action,” said Wong.

The summit is broken down into six themes that have been identified as pressing issues by the Calgary youth. The themes are education, diversity and inclusion, transportation and placemaking, mental health, and sustainable economy and COVID recovery.

The summit will include guest speakers such as author Dave Meslin and Alice Lam who is the founder of Tigerstedt Flea Pop Up Market, Volley, and the Calgary Community fridge.

“The more people are engaged in their communities, the more inclusive our cities will become,” said Lam.

Working for the future

The Summit will be a two-day event in which attendees will gather in breakout rooms to share and discuss ideas as to how youth engagement will be amplified. On the second day, participants will be able to voice their ideas and present them to municipal candidates and city leaders.

“I would like to see Calgary with more opportunities for youth to thrive. Whether it be better public infrastructure, employment opportunities, or more community engagement where youth opinions are valued,” said Wong.

Going forward, Wong hopes that youth are taken more seriously and engage more with their community.

“I feel like we have a bad reputation because people think we don’t care but I think that we have so many hopes and dreams for what our city could be,” Wong said.

“I think it’s time that we look at those voices and start making sure that they are included at the decision making table.”

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