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Middleton youth has plans to make his community a better place

Elyias French, right, attended a weeklong youth leadership conference in Regina at RCMP Depot in August. Adam Burns, left, is the Community Programs Officer for Annapolis District RCMP and selected French for the trip. Burns also attended.
Elyias French, right, attended a weeklong youth leadership conference in Regina at RCMP Depot in August. Adam Burns, left, is the Community Programs Officer for Annapolis District RCMP and selected French for the trip. Burns also attended. - Lawrence Powell

Elyias French talks about his youth leadership experience

MIDDLETON, NS - From Aug. 20 to the 26 I spent my time with a total of 15 other teens and more RCMP members than I could count from all across the country.

Throughout the six days, I spent my time working, thinking, sharing ideas, and during the evenings, working out and playing basketball alongside some of the most diverse and dedicated youths that I have ever met.

We were all selected by the RCMP branch of our communities for a reason. We all wanted to make a difference in our towns, villages, communities and homes. I cannot say how amazing it was to talk with these other youths and to hear about where they are from and some common issues that they face.

It really widened my perspective of Canada and made me realize how truly diverse it really is. We are pretty lucky where we live that we don’t have to deal with some of the very serious and very present problems out there that other part of the country do.

I’m not saying that we live in a perfect problem-free town, not by a long shot. What I am saying is that we have a chance to grow as a community and to solve some of the issues that are found locally here and maybe even prevent some issues from forming in the first place.

The main idea of the workshop was to bring together a group of youths with local RCMP members form communities throughout Canada in order to discuss problems that different areas are dealing with and how we - the youths and the future of this country - can come together alongside local groups, committees, and organizations to solve or prevent them altogether.

Each youth had to come up with an action plan that they could put into place in their community. Some popular ideas were game nights and scheduled activities to beat youth boredom and educational nature trips to teach other youths basic hunting, fishing, and nature skills that they can use in life.

My action plan was slightly different than those however. I’ve noticed that most youths don’t feel as motivated or as confident as they could be or should be. This develops them to be “followers” instead of leaders.

Within the community, it’s the leaders who make healthy relations with others and healthy choices for themselves. Many of the “followers” are very vulnerable to unhealthy choices such as substances and alcohol and since they don’t have the confidence or motivation to say no, they become involved with those substances and are then viewed as the stereotypical youths that don’t care about their community.

I plan on creating a group - or maybe collaborating with an already existing group with a similar goal - to bring together the youth of the community and to encourage small self-made projects within the community as well as doing a larger group project twice a year.

The personal projects could be anything from volunteering at a local event to asking your neighbour to shovel their driveway in the winter. They are small acts of kindness that would help to build healthy relations between the youth and the rest of the community.

The group project, though, would be a larger scale act where the entire group would come together alongside partners such as the RCMP or the fire department, to name a couple, in order to improve the community as a whole -- such as doing a park clean up or holding a dinner to raise money for a good cause.

I am still working on the details to organize this project of mine, but I have some great help from Adam (Burns, RCMP Community Programs Officer) and I plan to get started as soon as I possibly can.

Elyias French is a junior leader with the Annapolis District RCMP’s Cops and Kids program and Middleton Regional High School’s student council co-president.

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