Youth at South Dundas council
Back, from the left, councillors Archie Mellan, William Lewis, deputy mayor Kirsten Gardner, Mayor Steven Byvelds and councillor Lloyd Wells are shown flanking a group of South Dundas youth who attended the Aug. 13 council meeting with ‘Mayor for a Day’ Christian Mueller at the forefront. Thompson Goddard photo
MORRISBURG – It was a full house in the South Dundas Council Chambers when over two dozen young people visited the Aug. 13 council meeting, during which, Kaileigh Helmer, the municipality’s youth engagement intern presented her report to council. Helmer was employed by South Dundas after funding was received from the Rural Youth Engagement Grant Program, a Rural Ontario Institute program founded by Ryan Deska. South Dundas was one of 10 municipalities across Ontario selected to research and report back to council on youth engagement strategies.
In her comprehensive report, Helmer provided many recommendations on methods to engage youth in South Dundas, including the creation of a Youth Advisory Committee, a Youth Instagram/Snapchat account, ATV/dirt bike trails, businesses that young people would like to see in the municipality and an information video from the mayor following council meetings. Helmer explained that the information was obtained through consultations with students at Seaway District High School and an online survey with advertising for the survey done through a variety of mediums.
Helmer commented in her report to council how her employment as the Youth Engagement Intern provided her with the opportunity to further develop communication skill sets as well as research abilities and has also provided a greater insight into the roles and responsibilities of the municipal government.
Earlier this summer, South Dundas residents between the ages of 15-29 were invited to enter a 100 to 200 word summary including two ideas on how the youth presence in this community could be improved. Following the July 26 deadline, Christian Mueller of Iroquois was chosen to be ‘Mayor for a Day’ which he explained, allowed him to spend time with Mayor Byvelds and the South Dundas staff and learn more about the municipality. Mueller explained that he enjoyed the experience of being the first ‘Mayor for a Day’ in the municipality.
Following the report provided by Helmer, council members mentioned how impressed they were with the report, with deputy mayor Kirsten Gardner commenting how it was a good starting point and expressed her wish to move forward with the recommendations; this was echoed by councillors Lewis, Mellan and Wells, with Mayor Byvelds mentioning the youth of South Dundas should be encouraged to tell council what is needed, and the ways to engage young people in the municipality should be investigated.