Data in Action: Final Actions
Youth are exceptionally skilled at innovative thought and problem-solving, so we asked them to help, and did they ever deliver! More than 300 ideas for meaningful change were shared. From that list of over 300, 63 final actions were identified.
1. Ensure children, youth and families have their basic needs met.
2. More opportunities and/or supports for immigrant, newcomer, and/or ESL families. For example:
- Programs that focus on belonging for families
- Recreational activities to support with English language learning
3. Adults and decision makers in our community need to build their capacity, confidence and awareness in areas like: cultural sensitivity, anti-racism, homophobia, transphobia, 2SLGBTQ+ community, Islamophobia, ableism etc, to better address situations that arise. Adults and youth need to work together to develop strategies or ways to hold people accountable when discrimination occurs.
4. Work to create more inclusive and welcoming spaces in our communities and schools. Educate everyone on topics like:
- 2SLGBTQ+ community (particularly Trans and Non-Binary experiences)
- Visible and invisible disabilities (and ableism)
- Anti-racism (and discrimination based on race and ethnicity)
Be mindful of the small ways we can create welcoming spaces (e.g. smiling and waving, reaching out to those who are alone), and ways the broader community can better support inclusivity in our spaces.
5. Create more opportunities for children and youth that support young people in:
- exploring interests (including local and global issues)
- building stronger communities
- gaining employment skills and experiences
- gaining life-skills
- Navigating available resources and supports (particularly for “youth minorities”)
The opportunities should be easily accessible and take into consideration the various physical, mental, and socio-economic barriers young people may experience when engaging with an opportunity. Leverage existing youth spaces both physical and virtual (e.g. social media) to accomplish this.
6. Create spaces where mental health conversations are normalized, and resources and supports are constantly shared/promoted. This may include:
- Mental health focused clubs and programs in schools
- Specific programs aimed to support youth with particular mental health concerns (e.g. anxiety)
- Sharing and promoting current/existing counselling and therapy resources
- General spaces for conversation and where youth know support is available if they need it
Shift narratives to recognize that everyone has mental health, and by acknowledging and destigmatizing mental health in everyday spaces and conversations, we are actually creating spaces of belonging.
7. Create more spaces and opportunities for intergenerational discussion between youth and adults. Use these as opportunities to build relationships but also engage in conversation about issues that impact youth and the broader community
8. Create more spaces and ways for youth voices to impact and influence decision making. Involve young people in discussions that impact them in real ways, to better understand the diverse perspectives of youth in our communities.
Ensure these opportunities vary and are accessible in multiple ways, and that the follow-up actions are made public and youth can see how their voice/participation is impacting broader decisions and actions.
9. More acknowledgement and recognition for various cultural and religious holidays and practices in community spaces, especially schools.
In community this could mean:
- More cultural or religious programs
- Grocery stores promoting different food and cultures/making cultural staples easily accessible and available
- Public celebrations of holidays (not only the Christian holidays that have been built into calendars and school breaks) – widely accessible as opportunities to learn more about cultural and religious practices within our communities
In schools this could mean:
- Schools asking about/taking into consideration students’ religious and/or cultural accommodations
- Culture days at schools for both students and teachers/administration (spaces for mutual learning)
- Public celebrations of holidays (not only the Christian holidays that have been built into calendars and school breaks)
10. Host more (and/or increase access to) inclusive public events and opportunities that create space for communities to come together, build relationships, and connect after long periods of isolation. (Regional examples: festivals; Community examples: street or block parties, bbq.) Ensure these events are catered to the entire community, and not just families or younger children.
We are Healthy
11. Reduce the stigma around mental health by having more conversations about it in schools and youth spaces. Make these conversations less general and include higher quality information that is comprehensive and (where applicable) integrated into curricula.
12. Improve the education around mental health for adults and youth, both around their own mental health but also how to support others. Those in positions of power (particularly in school spaces) should have thorough, quality education that allows them to better themselves, but also the youth they are supposed to be supporting.
13. Increase the availability of mental health education for adults and youth in spaces like schools and through external workshops. Ensure the education is high quality, tangible, specific to different topics (e.g. suicide) and includes local resources. Ensure all resources and educational materials are youth-friendly/relatable.
14. Walk the talk – make mental health services more accessible to youth. Support youth in understanding services available and implementing mechanisms to better support youth in navigating the mental health system to actually access services
15. Walk the talk – make mental health services more accessible to youth. Ensure services are financially accessible to youth (available for free or at a lower cost), particularly so youth from low income households can access services
16. Walk the talk – make mental health services more accessible to youth. Making more services available (e.g. reducing wait times, making services available through school, hosting support groups, more options) to those looking for supports
17. Walk the talk – make mental health services more accessible to youth. Ensure these services reflect the diversity of our communities, so that youth can see themselves in the people they are encountering
18. Schools should be mindful of the pressure/workload they are assigning youth. Have more conversations with students regarding their home life/workload, and ensure that the work assigned in school isn’t negatively affecting student’s health. Adults should understand that the responsibilities placed on youth are extensive/potentially overwhelming. They should ensure that what they ask of them is not causing youth to put work before health (ie. not getting enough rest)
We are Learning
19. Schools should review current metrics for success (e.g.tests, exams, participation requirements) and find options or opportunities for youth to engage in different ways that align best with multiple learning styles. There should be an emphasis on understanding concepts, and greater access to “grade booster” opportunities.
20. Keep class sizes small so each student can receive the help of attention they need to succeed. Some students noted how quadmestering allowed for greater focus on fewer subjects and appreciated the structure
21. Review school start times and start classes later in the morning
22. Be mindful of workloads and how assignments, projects, etc. are spread out across the school year. Youth have other commitments and priorities outside of the classroom and many feel overwhelmed with the amount of schoolwork given. Provide opportunities for tutoring or homework clubs to support students with this, and ensure these are accessible to students.
23. Review curriculum and materials to bring in real world examples into the classroom related to different subjects. Connect the subject or what students are learning to what is happening in society and the world around them.
24. Create spaces and opportunities for students to gain and practice tangible, real-life skills that set up youth for success outside of school (e.g.financial literacy programs focused on taxes). This can be done in a peer-mentorship model. Hold more opportunities for interest and career exploration in earlier academic years.
25. Have greater representation of youth voice in the education system overall. Students should be aware of how school boards and schools operate, and have a greater say in policies and procedures that impact them (e.g.dress codes). Review the student trustee model to make space for more youth voice in school board decision making spaces.
26. Since young people spend a great deal of their time in school settings, schools should encourage and recognize the cultural and ethnic diversity of its students by:
- Creating spaces for peer-to-peer conversations around cultural practices
- Clubs dedicated to sharing cultural backgrounds with the aim of increasing awareness and breaking stereotypes
- More options for world religion classes and/or classes focused on cultural learnings
27. Mental health should be integrated into school spaces. This includes:
- Creating spaces for youth driven (peer-to-peer) conversations about mental health and coping strategies
- Formalized mental health services accessible in school
- Allowance of mental health days built into the school year
- Mental health focuses classes, or building mental health into existing classroom structures and spaces
- Focusing on creating a culture of prevention rather than intervention
28. Create intentional processes for accountability and accessibility. Ensure that what’s being said in school spaces matches the action taken by school staff, and the expectations of students. Students spoke to the performative nature of assemblies where topics are discussed, but then day-to-day actions don’t align or students feel brushed-off when issues related to the topic are raised in classroom settings (e.g.bullying, discrimination). Other youth noted that while some staff in school spaces do a great job accommodating students or “walking the talk”, others don’t and student experiences can feel inequitable. Develop clear processes for holding both staff and students accountable, andensure these accountability processes are clear and understood by all involved
We are Participating
29. More community events and public spaces to come together. Ensure events are widely promoted, are accessible (free or affordable), and geared towards youth (not just kids or families). Create opportunities for youth to be involved in organising these events. Examples of events highlighted by youth include:
- Cultural friendly events to meet the needs of diverse communities
- Food truck festivals
- Music festivals
- Game nights
- Outdoor theaters
- Outdoor movie nights
30. Encourage things like community gardens, recycling or clean up activities. Make related resources easily available to youth.
31. Provide more affordable or free physical activities and/or programs or events. Ensure schedules and availability align with youth schedules, and opportunities take into consideration the needs of diverse youth (e.g. not gendering programs or teams). Some examples shared include:
- Sports (e.g.soccer, team sports, running clubs)
- Dance (e.g.ballet)
32. Greater youth involvement in governance (municipal and regional decision making) and on the boards. Create more opportunities for youths to express their thoughts and opinions.
33. More representation of racialized groups in governance, media, community spaces and promotional materials
34. Create space for more youth driven conversations about mental health and (peer to peer) coping strategies. Right now, many youth feel like they aren’t being supported and are struggling not being able to connect. More resources are needed that aren’t intimidating and are easy to access to help youth.
35. Make public transport and community centres more widely accessible
36. Create more volunteer opportunities for youths to find and earn their volunteer hours. Make existing opportunities easy to find and accessible to youth
37. Identify communities where youth might be experiencing gaps in access to programs and opportunities. Increase access to community centres and provide more resources and play opportunities in these areas (e.g.youth in townships having access to same/similar programs as youth in municipalities).
38. Create more team building activities at school, with hybrid in-person and online options.
We are Secure and We are Protected
39. Build in support and education around issues such a bullying, sexual harassment, social justice movements and issues within the community, and the experiences of youth. This can be through workspaces, schools, and youth occupied spaces.
40. Increase social programming and support for low income individuals/families. Increase the availability and quality of affordable housing, food bank programs, etc. And also ensure that community activities are inclusive for all.
41. Better address bullying in the community -this includes identifying the root causes of bullying as a starting point, and implementing further supports to kids who have been/are bullied. We must also acknowledge the growing presence of cyberbullying, and ensure that we are employing better/more community guidelines in spaces where cyberbullying can occur.
42. Increase financial supports for youth and families. This includes
- de-stigmatizing food programs and increasing their quality (do they match dietary restrictions and cultural accommodations?)
- raising wages so that they keep up with the cost of living
- creating more street-engaged shelters
- making community programs (events, sports, activities, etc) accessible to low-income individuals and families.
43. Acknowledge and combat the housing crisis. Lower housing prices, control gentrification, build more affordable housing.
44. Recognize and address experiences of sexual assault and harassment. This can be through education, spreading awareness for reporting, and the consequences of sexual assault and harassment in elementary school and youth spaces
We are Connected to the Environment
45. Improve understanding and actual actions around sustainability. This includes increasing chances for community cleanups and schoolwide initiatives (that include all students), reducing the number of paper ads distributed across Waterloo Region, and improving recycling practices in public spaces.
46. Increase affordability of reusable or sustainable options. Encourage reusable options in public spaces where possible (e.g.grocery stores, restaurants).
47. Improve people’s access to nature (trails, outdoor meeting spaces, encourage people to be outside). This is better for the environment, and improves the collective well-being of our community.
48. Increase understanding/practices of sustainable farming, community/home gardens, and composting. Build in opportunities and resources that are easily accessible for all to build this understanding, and apply it in their daily lives (e.g.more ways/places to compost).
49. Increase and improve mobility across communities, and promote public transportation. This includes access to public transportation (e.g.affordability, as well as increasing routes and times out to townships), as well as clearing sidewalks and common “foot traffic” areas in the winter.
50. Ensure that everyone has access to clean drinking water, regardless of their income or where they live – build this into taxes.
We are Free to Play
51. Ensure that neighbourhoods across our communities have access to recreational facilities and spaces (e.g. community centres, splash pads, skate parks, community pools, basketball and tennis courts). Connect with youth to determine what activities they want available in these spaces, and that the variety and timing of those activities align with youth needs/wants.
52. Update community parks to include additional recreation spaces like:
- Skate parks
- Community pools
- Outdoor dodgeball courts
- Tennis courts
- Basketball courts
- Splash pads
- Soccer nets
53. Create pop-up equipment borrowing in community parks where youth can access things like basketballs, soccer balls, baseballs and bats, etc. Sometimes, youth will come together in park spaces but not have the equipment on-hand for pick up games.
54. Update community infrastructure so that stores, parks and sidewalks are all wheelchair accessible. Fix up older community centres and recreational facilities.
55. Provide more high-quality, financially accessible recreational opportunities
56. Have a centralized space (or spaces) where youth can learn about extracurriculars and ways to get involved in the community, highlighting which opportunities provide volunteer hours.
57. Offer opportunities to get volunteer hours at local community centres.
We are Happy & Respected
58. Create spaces for youth to access mental health supports without needing parental/guardian involvement. Make more of an effort to build a culture of “asking for support”. Focus on identifying spaces of prevention rather than needing to engage in intervention.
59. Provide education and support around healthy relationships and building connections (as a strategy to prevent youth homelessness related to family/household breakdowns).
60. When sharing public information about the pandemic (or future related issues), make sure the information is universal and not focused on adults/parents. Speak directly to youth and provide opportunities for youth to access the information in a way that works for them.
61. Support youth in getting involved in community again (post pandemic)
62. Make public transit more affordable and accessible (times and routes)
63. Continue with surveys and opportunities for youth to provide ideas or input into broader community spaces, identify needs, etc.