Organizers laying groundwork for inaugural youth conference in Prince Albert

The 2019 Children’s Advocate Conference was a huge hit when it was held in Saskatoon last May, and it’s inspired a group of local residents to try and hold something similar in Prince Albert.

Co-chairs Tricia Lucyshyn and Kevin Mugford are leading the organizing committee for Voices of our Youth – Weyawaw Oki Osakayak Pekiskwiwina. The conference is scheduled for May 21, 2020, and will ideally give policymakers and community leaders a chance to hear from youth on a variety of issues.

“I think the most important thing is celebrating our youth, putting them front and centre and hearing their feedback,” Lucyshyn said during an interview on Tuesday. “What are we doing right and what do we need to do better?”

Lucyshyn was one of several Prince Albert residents who attended the 2019 conference, where speakers age 30 and under gave their views and perspectives on Saskatchewan’s youth mental health services. Lucyshyn said that insight was extremely valuable, as well as inspiring. The Prince Albert conference will include more than one topic, and six youth groups and organizations have already come forward asking to speak.

“There’s just so much positive feedback from the youth who want to do this,” Lucyshyn explained. “Our idea is to get these groups solidified and then have an adult ally work with them from probably January until the conference to really get them to hone their skills as presenters.”

It’s still very early in development, so several key details haven’t been decided. The conference has no set location and no confirmed funding, although the May 21 date is guaranteed. The annual Heart of the Youth Powwow is scheduled for May 22, and organizers of both events want to work together to give local youth an even bigger stage.

Lucyshyn and the organizing committee planned to meet with local youth for the first time on Tuesday. The committee includes social workers, teachers, lawyers, law enforcement and representatives from a few service clubs and non-profit organizations. It will be their third meeting since committing to the project.

Ideally, Lucyshyn wants Prince Albert youth to feel like they’re being heard, empowered and supported by their communities. She also hopes Voices of our Youth leads to improvements in services that focus on young people.

“There are so many agencies here in Prince Albert that are here because of youth,” she said. “It’s another opportunity for us to get in contact and network.”

Lucyshyn, and co-chair Kevin Mugford were in attendance at Monday’s executive committee meeting to let city council know about their plans. Victor Thunderchild, who is serving as a cultural advisor to the group, also spoke briefly.

At least one city councillor was eager to discuss ways in which the City could support the event. However, organizers said it’s too early to say for certain.

“We’ll be back as we formulate our plan, probably closer to January, but I appreciate the gesture,” Mugford told council after being asked what the organizing committee needed. “In the end we want to obviously make this cost-efficient for our anticipated adult learners so that we can spread the word, not only of some of the issues that we’re all working towards together, but of many of the successes our youth are experiencing.”