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Community expo reaches out to teens

Nov 29 2012
Ali Berman, a 39-year-old mother of three children, is planning a Teen Expo show at George R. Pearkes Community Recreation Centre in April. "We want to bring all the resources available to teens under one roof." 

Ali Berman, a 39-year-old mother of three children, is planning a Teen Expo show at George R. Pearkes Community Recreation Centre in April. "We want to bring all the resources available to teens under one roof."

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

With local teens increasingly reporting that they feel disconnected from the community, a Saanich woman is stepping up with an event she believes will help. Ali Berman, a 39-year-old mother of three children, ages 12, 10 and three, is working to put on an arena floor show called the Teen Expo. She hopes groups from skateboard instructors to fashion designers to Vancouver Island Sexual Health will sign up for the exposition.

"We want to bring all the resources available to teens under one roof," said Berman. "We want to connect teens in this city with their peers, with business owners, with community leaders and community resources."

"And we want the teens to connect with each other to let them know there are other kids out there with the same concerns you have, with the same questions you have, the same interests you have," she said. "We want them to see in reality, they are not alone."

Last week, the Victoria Foundation released its Victoria Youth 2012 Vital Signs. The opinion-survey report found that for respondents ages 15 to 24, feelings of being connected to the community have hit a four-year low.

Only 12.8 per cent of the 200 teens who responded say they feel "very connected," the lowest level in the four years of the Vital Signs report.

Sandra Richardson, chief executive officer of the Victoria Foundation, said Monday that since the report was publicized last week, a number of businesses and other organizations have expressed interest, concern and a willingness to help.

Richardson said the report is publicly available and the Victoria Foundation is always willing to listen to somebody who thinks they may be able to help. So the expo proposal sounds like good news.

Berman, meanwhile, has booked Pearkes Arena for all day on April 27. She has also been at work for about two weeks and has commitments from nine businesses or groups. She hopes more companies and community agencies will sign up.

"We want people from the Island to say, 'Hey, this is going to be an incredible event, let's get behind it,' " she said.

Berman said she and her partners have some experience with putting on exposition-style shows. Berman, originally from Montreal, even staged a pet show while living in Arizona, featuring everything from pet psychics to crematoriums.

But the Teen Expo is close to her heart, particularly with her own three kids.

Berman noted that too often, teens and young people miss out on activities and chances to connect because they don't know where to turn for help.

Or their families may be short on money, so they miss out on sports.

They may not even like sports, but are unaware of the various outdoor activities so readily at hand in Victoria and Vancouver Island.

"Maybe it's rock climbing, maybe it's archery," said Berman. "There are any number of activities that are out there that young people may not even realize exist."

And for parents, "there are organizations out there that will help your children, let them get involved."

To learn more about Teen Expo, go to teenexpo.ca.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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