Youth from around the Basin may have a lot in common, from favourite video games, to shared hobbies, to wanting to see the same changes in their communities. They’ve also told the Trust they’d like to visit other communities and meet other youth. That’s where Regional Days come in. Every other year, this series of one-day events brings Basin youth together to get to know one another, exchange ideas, make friends and have fun.

The first two events this year—in Salmo and Nakusp—took place this spring, with more coming up in the East Kootenay this fall. They were put on by the Trust’s Basin Youth Network, which helps communities increase activities and opportunities for youth aged 12 to 18, enabling them to learn new skills like leadership and engage more with each other and their communities. The region-wide network also supports the efforts of the local youth networks in 28 Basin communities.

When asked about their experiences at Regional Days, every participant said something about building confidence, getting over fear, breaking out of a shell or letting go of their “cool card.”

“I learned that making new friends is easier than I thought, and that it’s not as awkward to talk to new people here,” says Keefer Barnes, from Kaslo and the Up the Lake Youth Network.

Participants broke the ice with get-to-know-you activities that helped them discover things in common. Through voicing their own values and hearing others’, they were able to establish connections. The next workshop—Community—focused on breaking down perceived differences and finding similarities amongst every person participating.

“I’ve learned what community means to me and how to make sure everyone feels included and heard,” says Emma LeCoufe, also from Kaslo. “Practicing these skills in a safe environment will prepare me for the future by making me more confident in situations like this. I love trying new things—even if they push me out of my comfort zone.”

After lunch and a fun carnival-style event, attendees participated in a leadership workshop. Through mini-games and lively discussion, they learned about leadership roles, styles and techniques.

“Coming here, I didn’t know what to expect,” says Ruby Serrouya from the Stoke Youth Network in Revelstoke. “I discovered what it’s like to be part of a community that supports each other. The activities taught me about how to be a leader. It doesn’t always mean being the boss—it means making sure everyone’s voice is heard, staying positive, persevering and steering the group in the right direction. I made a bunch of new friends today and learned about other towns in the area.”

Participants then ended the day in a tried and true way—with dinner, dancing and karaoke!

Leslie Hogg, Youth Liaison of the Stoke Youth Network, attended the Nakusp event with 10 Revelstoke youth, and attended the one in Golden a couple of years ago. She feels these events have many benefits. First, they bring together youth from the same community who may go to different schools and not know each other. Second, they introduce the youth to different people and places. “They’re all still chatting about it,” she says. “They’ve stayed in touch with a bunch of the friends that they’ve met!”

Third, they provide an invaluable experience for the youth to grow. “Showing up to those things, they’re nervous for what the day might bring, and it was really neat to watch them all come out of their shells,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard to grow when you’re always with the same people, so when you step out of your comfort zone that much, you’re actually creating more space to grow.”

Finally, the benefits extend beyond the events themselves. Some of the Revelstoke youth now want to share activities and lessons learned with youth who couldn’t attend.

The Trust knows that youth are the future of the region, and it’s traits like confidence and the ability to lead that will set them on a strong path forward. That’s why it’s been hosting youth-focused events for more than 15 years. It also supports youth education through various awards, bursaries, and career-related employment opportunities with local businesses and organizations through wage subsidy programs. Learn more about the work the Trust is doing with youth in the Basin and more about the Basin Youth Network.

Besides, building leadership and confidence is fun. “I always feel so fortunate to be able to go to these things with all these youth,” Hogg says. “I wish I could take everyone!”