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Greater Victoria teens report disconnect: Vital Signs

Nov 22 2012
As a youth, Simon Whitfield found expression through sport. 

As a youth, Simon Whitfield found expression through sport.

Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

Greater Victoria young people are increasingly reporting a lack of connection to the community, says an opinion survey released Wednesday.

The report, called Victoria's Youth 2012 Vital Signs, reveals a four-year low in how connected people aged 15 to 24 feel they are to the community.

Only 12.8 per cent of respondents reported feeling "very connected." That's down from 16.4 per cent in 2011, 19.1 in 2010 and 14.7 in 2009.

Even those who feel "somewhat connected" is down: 58 per cent in 2012 versus 71.4 per cent in 2011.

That compares with 26.1 per cent who feel "hardly connected" in 2012, versus 10 per cent in 2011, 21.3 in 2010 and 22.2 in 2009.

There are also more who feel "not connected at all," with 3.2 per cent in 2012 versus 2.1 per cent in 2011 - though this year's number is lower than 2010, when 3.6 per cent reported feeling not connected at all.

About 200 young people responded to the online survey.

The Vital Signs survey was compiled by the Victoria Foundation, a community organization that manages charitable donations and works to connect philanthropists with people who are addressing issues of interest to the donor.

The Victoria Foundation also conducts a broad-based Vital Signs report for Victoria, in addition to its youth report. A panel discussion and town hall meeting was held at the Metro Theatre, on the corner of Quadra and Johnson streets, to release the Youth Vital Signs report.

Sandra Richardson, CEO of the Victoria Foundation, said she found the levels of youth connectedness a little disturbing.

But Richardson also said it's worth noting people in their late teens and 20s are showing, in various surveys and studies, a surprising new resilience, flexibility and even comfort with today's chaotic economic and social conditions.

"Our youth are growing up in an era of complexity and uncertainty," Richardson said.

The panel included Simon Whitfield, Olympic triathlete; Julia-Anne Camera, Volunteer Victoria youth program coordinator; and Kristi Rivait, executive director of the Oaklands Community Centre. All said young people need the opportunities to connect with the community on their own terms.

For example, Whitfield said he found it difficult to flourish growing up in the kind of structured learning environments of typical schools. Instead he found his most meaningful, personal expression came through sport and athletics.

"I don't know where I would be if my parents had not been there to allow me to express myself that way," he said.

Louise MacDonald, Victoria Foundation director of governance and operations, said the Vital Signs report has already been used as a catalyst for positive change.

MacDonald said in years past young people have said they found cultural activities and the arts too expensive to enjoy in Victoria.

The Foundation responded with funding and by approaching the Greater Victoria Public Library, the Royal B.C. Museum and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria to arrange a Teen Culture Pass, granting a teen and friend free access for a week.

MacDonald also noted in past Vital Signs reports young people have complained libraries aren't teen friendly.

The public libraries took note and have created teen zones.

"So things are happening as a result of this (report)," she said.

To see the full Vital Signs report, go the Victoria Foundation website at victoriafoundation.bc.ca. rwatts@timescolonist.com

YOUTH AND COMMUNITY

- A look at how young people, between the ages of 15 and 24, felt about their connection to the community of Greater Victoria.

- 26.1 per cent - Number of youth who reported feeling "hardly connected."

- 3.2 per cent - Number of youth who reported feeling "not connected at all."

- 12.8 per cent - Number of youth who reported feeling "very connected." - Source: Victoria's Youth 2012 Vital Signs

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