While social distancing poses obvious difficulties for all members of the community, an often overlooked group are the teenagers too young for work yet too old for toys. Thankfully, the Fernie Youth Action Network (FYAN) has been hosting a number of programs and activities throughout the past few weeks to keep adolescents entertained.
Seeing that the first week of May is National Youth Arts Week, the FYAN is organizing a number of creative projects this month. Through these programs, the FYAN aims to provide a platform for teens to connect with one another, while offering them the opportunity to create and explore topics such as fashion, photography, cooking, art, and writing.
“I think people understand how challenging social isolation is for young children but maybe don’t realize it is also really hard for teens. I think the stereotype is that teens are smart phone addicts who love to sleep, spend the day watching YouTube and checking their Snapchat, but teens really crave connection and meaningful interaction. Maybe it’s because they do spend so much time around screens and connecting through social media, that they need the real connection that school, activities and just hanging out provides. They also thrive much better with routines, activities they love that challenge them and lots of caring adults in their lives like coaches, teachers and mentors,” said Alana Minifie-Rybar, FYAN’s coordinator.
To kick off the fun the FYAN is joining forces with The Arts Station to encourage youth to get involved with this year’s Banner Project by hosting a Banner Project session just for teens. In the hopes to inspire, inform, and guide teens to create their own 2020 Banner Project submission, the class held on May 4 was led by Minifie-Rybar along with local artist Tara Higgens and The Arts Station program director Jackie Graham.
Also created in an effort to celebrate Youth Arts Month and backed by The Arts Station, the FYAN is launching a virtual Youth Gallery titled Generation “Z”eitgeist. The eclectic gallery will feature the ink art, paintings, and photography of Fernie’s talented young artists and photographers.
Further celebrating the photography of local youth is the Planet Earth Photo Contest. Out of 67 dazzling entries, the winner of the contest was grade 12 student, Paige Polacik. Polacik’s gallery of portraits, entitled Beauty Inside Out, pertain to the local beauty of the Elk Valley and the women in it, as they complement each other. Both of the aforementioned galleries will be viewable on the FYAN’s website in the coming weeks, via Fernieyouthactionnetwork.org.
To add to the creative fun, Minifie-Rybar also started Fernie’s Teen Top Chef Challenge in honour of the culinary arts. In this challenge, contestants are asked to create various dishes to compete in a number of categories, including appetizers, main dishes, desserts and food styling, photography and videography. The winners will be announced on May 10 and given gift cards to local restaurants, cafes or food trucks of their choice as prizes.
Also in an effort to maintain youth engagement, the Columbia Basin Trust’s (CBT) Basin Youth Leadership Summit moved online this year. The summit, which typically covers a range of topics from climate change, to self reflection, meaningful community engagement, and team building, was scheduled to take place over the weekend of April 22 to April 26. With almost 200 expected attendees, it was cancelled due to the pandemic. As many teen participants were disappointed by the cancellation, Mike Kent, regional coordinator of the Basin Youth Network, decided to move the summit online.
The resulting virtual summit included workshops facilitated by various Basin Youth Network coordinators, allowing teens aged 12 to 18 to connect, build a community, and work on their leadership skills through an abridged version of the summit. With a quarter of eligible teens registering for the five hour virtual Youth Leadership Summit, the West Kootenay version was held on Saturday, April 25, and the East Kootenay version on Sunday, April 26.
The virtual version was complete with a climate change module, various workshops including a teen mindfulness workshop with life coach Cate Bio, live DJs, and a hip hop lesson from professional hip hop dancer Stefanie Jones from the Kimberley Dance Academy.
“I acted as a facilitator and thought the modules offered were fantastic,” said Minifie-Rybar. “I really loved working with the kids in the virtual breakout rooms. We’ve got some brilliant and thoughtful young people in the Basin. It makes me hopeful for the future. The feedback from the teens that did participate was really positive and a lot of them mentioned that it had exceeded their expectations.”
The CBT and the network coordinators are currently discussing offering the virtual summit once again at the start of June in order to allow teens who missed the first one to attend.
Also keeping teens entertained during isolation was the Fernie Clothing Swap Outfit Challenge, an event organized by local youth, Eden Amundsen. In an effort to support community engagement, the idea behind the original event was to get Elk Valley youth to donate clothing, swap and shop. While the physical event was cancelled due to the pandemic, Minifie-Rybar suggested turning the event into an online Clothing Swap Outfit Challenge, wherein participants send in photos of themselves in outfits aligning with predetermined categories to be voted on by judges.
The online event drew in excited youth from all over Fernie, Elkford and Sparwood, and was judged by local fashion experts, Allie Rogers, owner of New Moon Goods, and Chantel Vincent, owner of Freyja Kootenay Boutique. Winning various categories within the challenge was Easton Fieldhouse, Lauryn Sims, Andora Wright, Kayla Malone, and Emil Deschamps.
The activities do not stop there, as in the coming weeks, the FYAN will continue to host a number of exciting initiatives for teens, such as supervised Social Distancing Hangouts, where four to five teens meet up in a socially distant manner to discuss books at the giant picnic table in front of the library garden.
“The feedback that I’ve gotten from teens is that they really miss face to face contact, this will give them a chance to safely connect with friends and maybe make some new ones. The feedback that I’ve gotten from the parents of teens is that they wish they would get outside more, so this helps solve that problem as well,” said Minifie-Rybar.
Other initiatives the FYAN has going on at the moment are teen isolation bingo, youth Zoom drop ins, a town wide scavenger hunt on International Scavenger Hunt Day, and Strawberry Wars between Sparwood and Fernie’s youth action networks.