Fort McMurray Talent Showcase Champions Youth Voice

As part of the RbD Lab “Youth Voices Rising” (YVR) project, the District Recording Studio, 91,1 The Bridge and the YouthVoicesWB campaign recently presented a youth talent showcase in Fort McMurray, Alberta. The event included 10 youth performers, a talk by RbD Lab Research Assistants Maike and Aishwarya, a presentation from 3 Things Wood Buffalo, and a visit by the Mayor Don Scott and Councillor Jeff Peddle. The event wrapped up the month-long, #YouthVoicesWB social media campaign and action research project that championed young people creatively answering the question: What would you do to make your community better? See the amazing performances—and the Mayor’s and Councillor’s talks—on the Shaw TV YouTube Site: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLARu0rgVPBmwEI5AmSxEpc8FDfkwdqDrU.

Maike, a local Research Assistant, wrote a blog to share her impressions of the fun and inspiring evening:

Pizza, Hipster-Lounge Atmosphere, Talented Youth and Mayor Don Scott

By Maike-Alexandra Schmieding, RbD Lab Research Assistant, Youth Voices Rising

On Nov 10th, at 6.30pm, around 75 youth gathered at the Kingstreet Theatre at Composite High School to perform their songs, poems and stories. The youth had the chance to perform their art through a cooperation of the YouthVoicesWB campaign, the District Recording Studio and 91.1 The Bridge.

I was blown away by the talent and professionalism of the youth performing. Being 16, and sometimes even younger, going on that stage takes courage. And the youth rocked it. The atmosphere was amazing. I felt like I stepped into a hip New York underground lounge. The youth had great messages, too, for making their community better, especially as the area recovers from the 2016 wildfire disaster. For example, Shekinah, age 15, sang a song called “Recovery” with the lyrics: “There’s something about this town that nobody sees. No matter what tries to bring you down, you can’t be beat.  And the fire that burnt down all your hopes and dreams. You came back twice as strong ready to take on anything… If I could do something to make this place any better. I would bring back the people that stuck together. Our hearts stayed strong we’ll carry on forever. It’s all a part of our recovery.”

Wow – what a beautiful message! And what a great venue too. I want to give a special shout out to the people from the District Recording Studio and 91.1 The Bridge at this point for their amazing work for setting up the stage, and to the Kingstreet Theatre at Composite High School for hosting the event!

Besides all the great youth performers, one of my personal highlights of the night was newly elected RMWB Mayor Don Scott and Councillor Jeff Peddle joining us and listening to young people. Throughout the whole event (and the YouthVoicesWB social media campaign) we asked youth: “What would you do to make your community better?” The answers ranged from wanting a Costco to needing support with bullying, to problems with local transportation and more. In our talk about the YouthVoicesWB campaign, I specifically mentioned the challenges of transportation for youth on stage. Councillor Jeff Peddle approached us right afterwards and showed me his phone. He had messaged a person responsible for transportation in the Municipality to explore the issue further to help local youth!

Our excitement became even greater when Mayor Don Scott spoke to the youth on stage about the transportation problem. As well, he said one of the most inspirational things I have heard until this day (which must mean something, because I’m a teacher, and we really like saying inspirational things!): “Prove them wrong.” Mr. Scott advised the youth to never let anybody tear them down, and to prove people wrong whenever they said that they cannot do “it”—whatever “it” is.

It was also an exceptionally special moment for us when he announced that he would display the Justin Slade Youth Foundation YouthVoicesWB sticky note wall for youth feedback and the amazing art installation of angel wings from the Art Foundry. (Here I am with the wings at the event.) Don Scott said he plans to put them in his office to show everybody the great ideas youth have for the Wood Buffalo region, and to encourage more input by youth. What a great way for youth voices to be shared with the support of the Mayor.

As a new Research Assistant with the Youth Voices Rising project, I loved to hear everybody’s stories and to connect with all the youth. There are some amazing kids out there, and together, we can take the world. In the words of Mayor Don Scott to the youth: “PROVE THEM WRONG!”

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