A new youth council in Yellowknife says it wants to amplify the voices of young people and give them a seat at the decision-making table.
The council is helmed by a local chapter of Communities Building Youth Futures, or CBYF – a national initiative, run by the Tamarack Institute and launched in 2019, that aims to increase high-school graduation rates.
Narlie Dapilos, the 26-year-old Yellowknife project coordinator for CBYF, said his group’s goal is to make the city a place “where young people can safely pursue their dreams and passions.”
“We’re such a big part of the community here in Yellowknife,” he told Cabin Radio.
“There are issues and challenges that youth face. Sometimes they are addressed, and sometimes they aren’t.
“If issues aren’t addressed, how can a youth really pursue what they want to do in life?”
Meagan Taylor is the youth leader for CBYF in Yellowknife and organizes the youth council.
Originally from Délı̨nę, she said a big barrier faced by northern youth is the feeling they have limited options for education and careers.
“A lot of people who try to pursue futures in the North, they don’t tend to go down a path that they truly, truly want,” she said.
“From my personal experience, I’ve always wanted to be an actress. I’ve always wanted to be on a big screen … but I went to school to be a social worker, which are two totally different careers.
“It really takes a toll on a person’s personality, and the way that they feel with their self-esteem, when they’re not pursuing what they actually want to pursue.”
Danielle Wendehorst, a 23-year-old member of the youth council, seconded Taylor’s sentiment.
“The transition from high school to what’s next – you have the choice of starting work, but with the high cost of living and the expectation that you already have experience or an education background, how can I get a job that I can afford to live here in the North?
“It’s not a simple path for youth here.”
Wendehorst, Taylor, and Dapilos believe one solution is bringing youth into Yellowknife’s decision-making process. They hope to achieve that with the youth council.
Since it started last fall, the council has acquired around 20 members according to Dapilos. Its first official meeting was held in September, where mental health and development of life skills were quickly identified as priorities.
As a first project, the group has launched a social media campaign named Youth of Yellowknife, modelled after the popular Humans of New York series.
Wendehorst, who is helping to lead the campaign, said: “It gives non-youth an opportunity to learn a little bit more about what youth are going through in the community, or what’s most important to them, or what’s on their mind.”
CBYF Yellowknife is nearly one year into its an initial five-year lifespan outlined by the national initiative, though Dapilos hopes it will outlive that target.
Before the first five years are up, the organization hopes to take the insights and ideas of Yellowknife youth and engage with decision-makers on making change.
“Youth might have ideas for solutions. They might be thinking of things in a way that maybe someone of an older generation might not think of,” Dapilos said.
“All of it comes together to inform and help shape how they want to see this community be beneficial for other youth.”