Youth attending a conference in Penticton over spring break had fun in a photo booth at the event.

Youth attending a conference in Penticton over spring break had fun in a photo booth at the event.

Ten youth, six days

Local youth represented the community at a youth conference in Penticton over spring break.

Local youth represented the community at a youth conference in Penticton over spring break.

The aboriginal youth conference, called Gathering Our Voices, is an annual conference held every year in different locations across B.C. for up to 2,000 youth between the ages of 14 and 24.

This year’s conference was in Penticton, and 10 youth from both the Nak’azdli Youth Council and the Fort St. James Secondary School (FSJSS) Youth Council went down to the event with two chaperones.

The theme of the conference was how to lead healthier lives, focussing on a variety of areas including health, recreation, culture, employment, language, the environment, and sports.

According to Jana Gainor, the Fireweed youth coordinator, who helps run the FSJSS youth council, the students who attended this year’s conference were all “buzzing” with enthusiasm after their return, and some of the highlights they talked about included a workshop titled Elders don’t bite and a beatboxing workshop which inspired the youth to make up beatboxing songs all the way home.

It was also the first time non-First Nations were sent to an aboriginal youth conference from Fort St. James, and the lone non-First Nations girl who went said she felt completely welcome and was really grateful for the opportunity to go.

Another highlight of the trip was the free clothing room full of name-brand clothing they could choose five items from.

While some of the students felt it was outside their comfort zone to be among so many people they did not know at the conference, they gained confidence through the experience.

The students also made friends amongst each other, which helped them to make friends with more people outside their current groups of friends.

The trip was a big perk to being on the youth council and in addition, chaperone Lenny Prince said the Fort St. James youth were among the most respectful at the conference, and were really well-behaved during the speakers, which made them great representatives for the community.

The larger group was made possible because the Nak’azdli Youth Council had applied for a grant and received $5,000 towards the trip.

The Nak’azdli Youth Council then shared this grant with the FSJSS Youth Council, so the two youth groups then split the cost of the conference between them.

“I think it was just so important how the two youth councils are starting to work so much together, I think it’s an example for the whole community,” said Gainor. “I think because they know each other so well, they’re excited to work on other things together and it just sets a good example for the adults in the community.”

The group is working on a video from their trip, which will be posted shortly.