2019 07 Youth Voice: 
Town of Halton Hills Planning 

We would like to acknowledge the incredible partnership with many departments in the Town of Halton Hills for their ongoing commitment to amplifying youth voices on decisions that affect them. Including youth in every step of the process allows for young people to feel connected to their community, have a sense of pride for building their community and better understand how local government works!

Acton Youth Centre focus group with Stephanie Barrington - June 2019
Our newly established team took the mic and started amplifying youth voice after just 2 weeks of team building. Stephanie Barrington, who was in the role of Youth Centre Manager at the time, came to visit the Seven Somebodies at our weekly meeting spot: the OKN Community Hub at MSB school. Why did they come visit? To show options for design at the youth centre and to check in and see what else they may want to consider in the development of the new Acton Youth Centre. Stephanie showed us wall designs, booth options and more. We shared how we thought it is important to have big kitchen space, rooms with doors for privacy and we agreed that the Town’s plan to have a shower and washer/dryer on spot was an excellent option. Accessibility and equity for youth who may be facing certain challenges like housing and food insecurity, having mental health crises or acing homophobia were our top concerns. 

Acton BIA - creating youth spaces in downtown Acton - July 2019
Alex Hilson, if you don’t already know him, wears many hats in the Halton Hills community. His roles include working for the Town of Halton Hills, Acton BIA, the Tanner and even teaching music! In July 2019, Alex was fairly new to his role at the Acton BIA and made it his mission to hear directly from various community stakeholders. His stakeholder list included youth. His sit-down interview with our team had discussions on how youth view the downtown area, what they like, what they didn’t and what they would like to see. They talked about possible events, what would draw youth in, what types of stores, products and services youth want to see in their community. We also chatted about the importance of entrepreneurs, small businesses and supporting local. 

The Tanner - introducing the Seven Somebodies to Acton - July 2019
By July, the Seven Somebodies had helped host an event, gave feedback to two town departments and could be seen around town exploring their community while leaving kindness messages on poles and sidewalks. Imagine our surprise when Alex Hilson came to our weekly meeting to do an interview! The article helped showcase the purpose of the Seven Somebodies and he took a professional photo of our team. One of our key volunteers, Faith, couldn’t be there so we printed out a picture of her and her face managed to get in the shot. It was clear to the youth on our team, many of whom had just finished their grade 7 or 8 school year, that the community was valuing what they had to say and was sharing power in decision making that affected youth. The group was empowered! 

Intensification Opportunities study - interactive event and follow up with Town Planning - July and November 2019
We challenged our growth and met with the Senior Town Planning department twice. They had a project called the “Intensification Opportunities study”. This name, the level of department and the complex nature of the questions may have intimidated our group but at this point, we had built a sense of trust with the Town of Halton Hills - and the team knew that they were capable of giving insight with the proper tools. The planning department brought us to the Acton Youth Centre, did a presentation and then we built specific legos on a map of the town to show where we would suggest putting different types of buildings. Where should condos go? Was there any room left of properties with backyards (for pets)? These questions were asked and more. This activity got the team thinking and at our next meeting, we had a big brainstorming session on what programs, services and layout youth would want. We sent our feedback to the Town. 

Mindfulness bottle with Public Health at the Acton Youth centre - August 2019
Kjasa Klassen, our adult ally from the Region of Public Health, is an advocate for mental wellness and a champion for youth. She invited us to the Acton Youth Centre to have casual and candid conversations about mental health and wellness while building mindfulness bottles. Youth centre staff like Erica Dunn joined in too and it was awesome to see youth and adults learning, playing and connecting - and feeling comfortable to share their feelings. 

Window Decorations - Halloween, Holiday and Winter murals October 2019- February 2020
The front window of the Acton Youth Centre (former location) faced the main busy street in Acton. Great real estate for window decorations. Jennifer Ancona Youth Centre Manager from the Town of Halton Hills invited the energetic and creative Seven Somebodies to do several seasonal window displays! In addition to testing out their artistic skills, it was an opportunity for our team to familiarize themselves with the programs and services of the Acton Youth centre and add their presence to the amazing space Jennifer and her team provide for youth ages 12-24 in Acton.