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Picton’s youth centre fosters student engagement

Ruby Gaudette, Picton’s Recreational Outreach Centre (ROC) Youth Engagement summer intern. Photo by Robbie Garden Photography.

By Olivia Timm
The future of youth engagement and entrepreneurship in Prince Edward County is going to be even stronger thanks to a local youth intern.

Ruby Gaudette, 19, is working as the Youth Engagement Intern at Picton’s Recreational Outreach Centre (ROC). After working with the centre last summer as a youth mentor, she was selected for a new position this summer to take on several exciting projects.

“Everything I’ve done since my role began in May has been focused around three main objectives – a youth forum, civic engagement and youth entrepreneurship.”

Gaudette has been compiling research and insight on youth in the community to begin the initial planning of an exclusive Prince Edward County Youth Summit that is projected to take place by 2020.

“I’ve been establishing the groundwork of what our Youth Summit is going to be. I created a survey that I am distributing to youth in our community to get their feedback. The summit is going to be all action-based, but we want to ensure we touch on topics that matter to them,” she said.

That includes exploring what the layout of the event will look like, she said, whether it will be motivation speakers, or more workshop-based for youth.

After one month of surveying, Gaudette said she had about 18 responses, which she said is a good starting point.

In terms of civic engagement, Gaudette has been working closely with the municipality’s Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) and networking with their youth representative.

“I’ve been able to get a sense of what she feels is working well and what could maybe be improved on. I also met with the former youth representative to see how we can better that experience in the future,” she said.

Gaudette sat in on a Community Economic Development meeting, and said she is looking forward to making a formal deputation to share the work she and the ROC are doing to support youth in the community.

Her final area of focus, youth entrepreneurship, has allowed Gaudette to help students gain confidence and skills by planning events and take part in volunteer activities.

The kitchen area at the ROC Youth Centre. Photo by Robbie Garden Photography.

A group of students recently held a bake sale in front of Sobey’s, raising $312 that will be going toward planning a summer trip.

“Ten or 12 of our students will be able to go mini-putting because of those funds. Around the same amount went on a trip recently to see the Lion King musical and go for dinner in Toronto. I think it’s super important to provide the students with barrier-free opportunities, and you can see the difference it makes.”

The ROC services are free and accessible to any youth, regardless of circumstance, but Gaudette said “When someone walks through our door, we don’t know how their day or night has been, so we offer them anything we can – whether that’s a fun, social activity or lunch.”

Gaudette will be returning to the University of Toronto in the fall to continue her studies in sociology, and said she’s excited to stay involved and watch how these projects continue in the future. She also added it was a valuable part of her role to collaborate with other interns who work in rural communities across Ontario.

The Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) is a funding partner of her position. Gaudette said there are 10 interns across the province who all share updates on projects they are working on.

As her position comes to a close at the end of August, Gaudette said she has seen well over 1,000 visits to the youth centre and says it’s enlightening to see that everything their staff does is to support the youth and that it truly makes a difference.

When Gaudette was 16, she attended the centre regularly and received resources and mentorship she didn’t think she’d have. Now, as she returns to university for her second year, she said “I think the staff really encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and support me through some hard times. Now it’s even more exciting to be able to do that for someone else.”

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