International Youth Day (IYD) was designated by the United Nations as an opportunity to focus on the positive aspects of what young people bring to their communities.
While there are some 60 IYD events taking place around the globe, relatively few are taking place in North America. Of the eight that are, one of them is taking place in London and is being hosted by Mindyourmind.
Mindyourmind, an award-winning, non-profit mental health program that focuses on youth and young adults, is hosting International Youth Day Remix 2014 on Tuesday, Aug. 12. The day will feature a variety of free workshops taking place at CitiPlaza (355 Wellington St.) and The Arts Project (203 Dundas St.).
This will be Mindyourmind’s fourth time hosting an International Youth Day event, but the first since 2012. While previous IYD events had focused on a youth talent competition, the plan for 2014 is a more inclusive venture that appeals to a wider demographic of youth.
“The other years were pretty much a talent show. If you didn’t have a talent, you could come and watch, but it was a different role,” said Heather Miko-Kelly, Mindyourmind youth projects and volunteer coordinator. “But with the wide variety of workshops, we think it is much more appealing.”
Mindyourmind’s IYD event takes place from noon to 6 p.m. and includes a reception that takes place at The Arts Project from 4-6 p.m.
The workshops, as Miko-Kelly said, offer a truly wide variety of learning opportunities. Busking, breakdancing, cornhusk weaving, tarot card reading, spoken word (provided by London Poetry Slam), yoga classes, a chalk art project, entrepreneurship lessons (led by Junior Achievement), job search and interviewing skills, and zine creation, are just some of the opportunities being offered.
Mindyourmind itself (which operates out of offices in CitiPlaza) will be a “chill out space” for those who want to relax and catch their breath.
Taylor Holden, youth outreach assistant at Mindyourmind, is one of the young people the IYD is meant to highlight. Holden said it is very important, when planning an event, to make sure everything is done right.
“It has to be beneficial. We are always very conscious of youth spending their time here and how valuable that is,” Holden said. “If someone is going to give up their entire day, we want to make sure it is worth their while.”
Miko-Kelly agreed, adding IYD was designed to recognize the positive impacts young people make every day. What unfortunately is often heard, Miko-Kelly said, is the troubling stories that distract from making the community more aware of the “all the strengths and talents and knowledge” that young people bring to their communities.
In recent years, however, she said that situation has begun to change.
“Often young people don’t get enough credit in our communities. But in general, I think people are acknowledging the impact young people can have, the strengths young adults can bring to anything,” Miko-Kelly said. “We have had lots of youth involved in roundtable discussions, provincial think tanks, conferences, we have seen provincial bodies now make a point of inviting young people. “
Heather Stephenson, youth volunteer assistant at Mindyourmind, said whether young people are working for, or volunteering at, an event like IYD, it makes it easier to find stories where youth are being highlighted in a positive way.
When people come and participate in something like IYD, Stephenson said, they see there is a community of strong youth around them.
“Part of the Mindyourmind mission is that youth are experts in their own experience, “Stephenson said. “That ties in with International Youth Day because we are asking young people to facilitate, or co-facilitate, workshops based on their own experiences or skills.”
Miko-Kelly said the more communities see others engaging young people in positive ways, in impactful ways, the more they will think of including them as well. London, for example, is a city that has youth on advisory committees, youth committees, even a youth council.
The more people see that, the more people say they should do that too.
Holden is one young person who has been invited to several meetings where her contribution was welcomed. When she gives her opinion, however, people respond almost in shock that someone so young had something intelligent to contribute.
And that, she is quick to say, is wrong.
“It really depends on the organization, not at Mindyourmind which has always involved youth, but when you go to some organizations and say something intelligent, they seem shocked,” Holden said. “Eloquence is actually not dependent on age. As soon as you turn 18 you are allowed to have thoughts.”
Miko-Kelly said she has seen that surprised reaction on many occasions. To eliminate it, however, involves giving young people a platform to contribute. When youth are involved with planning events, are on staff, are contributing to organizations, it gives young people a platform to share their voice and show the impact they can have on the community.
The IYD workshops are free, but people are asked to register for them on an Eventbrite page that can be reached at www.mindyourmind.ca/IYD.