"It really was wonderful to see people come together to make the third annual Revitalization Youth Ambassadors' Forum happen," said Sean Major, a Community Revitalization and Renewal Assistant at Toronto Community Housing.
It was a jam-packed day filled with workshops, a scavenger hunt, and a talent show to celebrate the achievements of youth and to help connect youth to the revitalization project in Regent Park. The event space, provided through the Artscape Community Access Program
, provided a culturally relevant environment to inspire learning and open discussion about the Regent Park Revitalization project.
"Youth are getting the skills to work with different groups and it gives them a chance to learn from each other," said Frank, a resident who lives in Regent Park.
Youth ambassadors, who helped planned the forum, welcome participants during opening remarks.
"The Revitalization Youth Ambassadors' Forum is a cool, super fun event that gives youth a foundation in civic engagement," said Jed Kilbourn, Associate Development Manager at Toronto Community Housing.
The Revitalization Youth Ambassadors' Forum is one way Toronto Community Housing reaches out to youth to make sure that they have a say about what happens in their community.
"Sometimes youth are not involved in key family decisions," said Julio Rigores, Manager of Revitalization and Renewal Communities at Toronto Community Housing. "Creating a space like this helps educate Regent Park youth in the process of redevelopment so that they can participate meaningfully and influence future outcomes of Regent Park."
Since the program started in 2013, youth have become more involved in the revitalization project. For example, in early 2014 youth led community consultations where they helped build the features and designs of the Regent Park Athletic Grounds. The revitalized Regent Park is "living the dreams and voices of the residents," said Councillor Pam McConnell.
Youth participated in workshops that discussed about the history and changes in their community. They learned how to become a part of the decision-making process as the changes happen all around them.
"Youth really seemed engaged and enthusiastic to be part of the forum," said Sean Major. This year, Regent Park ambassadors worked together over the last nine months to plan the event and raised over $500 worth of raffle prizes. Beyond planning for the Revitalization Youth Ambassadors' Forum, youth ambassadors developed critical skills in civic engagement, advocacy and event planning.
"When revitalization first happened in Regent Park, I was against it. Now I want to be involved in the process to that make sure this is still our Regent Park," said DeAngela, a youth participant at the event.Youth learned about the history of the Regent Park Revitalization project in a workshop. A model showing the master plan for the revitalization of Regent Park.
Each year, the Revitalization Youth Ambassadors' Forum becomes more meaningful in Regent Park. Youth use the program as a stepping stone to other employment opportunities and other advocacy work.
It has been ten years since the revitalization project began in Regent Park. As the progress continues, Toronto Community Housing will work with youth to keep them connected and involved in their community.
If you are interested in learning other opportunities for youth in Toronto Community Housing, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org