A Calgary program for kids between 10 and 12 is getting them up to speed on the fast pace of change in societal issues facing Calgary.
The Changent program is headed by Dr. Josephine Tsang and a group of volunteers. Tsang and her team are working in collaboration with Mount Royal University, CityXlab, and Calgary Economic Development.
They aim to educate Calgary’s youth on topics including sustainability, food, water, social well-being, equity, and civic engagement. Tsang believes that it’s important now more than ever that kids get involved in their communities.
“You know it is the time to start talking about these experiences and values at a younger age, because by the time the kids get to university things would have changed and they would have been educated already,” said Tsang.
Educating the future
The Changent pilot project is a week-long experience in which participants will receive in-person lessons regarding the aforementioned topics but will also get the opportunity to travel around the city to gain a better understanding of the inner workings of the city and the organizations that reside in it.
“This pilot project is to find out if Calgarians want to be part of this conversation. So they will discover and unlock the superpowers to help shape the community around us,” said Tsang.
Changent participants will also get a chance to visit various charity and social groups around the Calgary metro area in order to gain a better understanding of operations and how they can get involved outside of the Changent program.
“We have more social issues like discrimination and the kids can see that and I know they all want to put their hands up and begin to make a difference,” said Tsang.
Participants will also get to hear from guest speakers including: Skipping Stone, Free Store YYC, the Calgary Community Fridge, Tigerstedt, Calgary Economic Development, Apathy is Boring, Mayor Nenshi and Good Neighbour.
Motivating the youth
There are no financial barriers to enter the program. It’s pay-what-you-want to ensure interested participants have no trouble getting involved with the program.
“We wanted to make sure that youth from all walks of life would have an opportunity to participate,” said Tsang.
Tsang believes that with the rise of social media and with information being more available than ever, youth are motivated to get involved with their community.
“I think they want to feel more empowered to shape the city and we have heard it loud and clear that they want to be a part of it,” said Tsang.
However one of the most important aspects of this program is allowing youths to have in person interactions again. After the COVID-19 pandemic Tsang believes that this is one of the most important aspects of the Changent program.
“ A lot of campers when they came in were really shy and now they are hanging out, meeting new friends and slowly finding their own tribe and brainstorming more,” said Tsang.
The next Changent Camp will run from August 9-13.