Special to The Lake Report
While following COVID-19 regulations, adjusting to bi-weekly virtual meetings and pivoting our initiatives to online formats, it has been a busy year for the Lord Mayor's youth advisory council.
The council is a youth-led group striving to give a voice to the youth of Niagara-on-the-Lake and has been encouraging youth involvement within the community since 2017.
Our group consists of myself and 14 driven members, each bringing their unique perspective, ideas and enthusiasm to our virtual meetings. We also have Lauren Kruitbosch, the town’s community engagement co-ordinator, and adult mentors Lord Mayor Betty Disero, local businesswoman Maria Mavridis, Catherine Goerzen from the Rotary Club and NOTL resident Amy Casey.
We have divided the group into three subcommittees, including outreach, advocacy and wellness, with five members and an adult mentor on each.
Outreach focuses on raising community awareness and organiziing events for youth enjoyment; advocacy refers to local issues, including environmental concerns; and wellness promotes mental, physical and emotional wellness among local youth.
As we wrap up this term and take a break for the summer, here are some of our accomplished projects and initiatives from the past year.
In January, to stress the importance of the stay-at-home NOTL philosophy, we produced a COVID-19 public service announcement outlining and encouraged young residents to follow lockdown guidelines. The announcement also included suggestions for staying occupied and well at home during the difficult times of isolation.
Over the years, the youth council has had the continuous support of NOTL’s Rotary Club, with assistance in funding, resources and mentorship. In February 2021, we partnered with Rotary to officially form an Interact Group, a community-based service club for youth.
We all understand the importance of taking care of our mental health and wellness, especially with the new challenges of isolation, physical distancing, stress and uncertainty presented by the ongoing pandemic.
One of our annual events, the Mental Health and Wellness Conference for Grade 8 students from all area schools, was released on the youth council's YouTube channel in May as a series of videos.
These videos were created in partnership with local mental health professionals Dr. Ron Clavier and registered dietitian Melissa Dunlop. This year, our videos focused on topics addressing mental health issues facing young people during the pandemic.
Throughout spring, we hosted live virtual events via Zoom to foster community engagement and create an opportunity to participate in an event for pure enjoyment. We organized two virtual trivia-style game nights, one for youth and one for families, with fun prizes for our winners.
We also partnered with the NOTL Public Library to host a youth paint night where participants learned how to paint a Van Gogh-inspired starry night.
In June, we collaborated with over a dozen area businesses and establishments to put together 100 “You Got This” bags for local youth and hosted a drive-by pickup at the NOTL Community Centre. These free bags, thanks to our donors, were filled with fun trinkets and gifts to reach out to NOTL youth with the intention of boosting spirits and promoting overall wellness.
The youth council is a great way to be actively involved within the community and connect with NOTL's young people.
If you are aged 13 to 18 and live in Niagara-on-the-Lake, you can apply to join the advisory council. Applications open in the early fall each year. Follow @lmyacnotl on Instagram for the most recent updates.
Janvi Ganatra was 2020-21 chair of the Lord Mayor’s youth advisory council.