Having fun with meaningful results

Nelson Youth Action Network keeps youth engaged, supporting social connectivity and their physical and mental health.

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Nelson and area youth have many opportunities to thrive

At the Nelson and District Youth Centre, youth can climb, dance, shoot hoops or do tricks on their skateboards. Since 1997, young people have been gathering under its roof to interact and have fun. It’s an impressive location—and lately, the activities available to this area’s youth are extra impressive.

That’s because, for about five years, the Nelson Youth Action Network (NYAN) has been busy keeping youth even more engaged, supporting social connectivity and their physical and mental health. Field trips to zipline or paddleboard. Workshops to learn first aid or to prepare to work for the first time. A monthly improv night.

The range of NYAN activities is “awesome.” That’s the term used by Samantha Maglio, NYAN Coordinator. Throughout 2020, about 245 youth aged 12 to 18 took advantage of this broad range of offerings. Even with reduced or online options during the pandemic, the network has been essential. “It’s given youth something to do,” Maglio says. “It’s been a way for them to be social.”

NYAN is part of the Basin Youth Network. Launched in 2016 by the Trust, the Basin Youth Network helps communities in the region increase local activities and opportunities for youth, enabling them to learn new skills and engage more with each other and their communities. Every community’s network looks different.

All of them, however, aim to let youth have a say about what goes on. In Nelson, Maglio uses surveys and focus groups, plus an oversight committee of both adults and youth. “Most of my programming is chosen by youth,” she says. Another goal is to get youth out into the community.

For example, NYAN participants recently created a mural on the city’s recycling centre, working with a local artist to design the artwork and then taking up paintbrushes themselves to make it happen. Plus, the networks collaborate with other organizations to get a broad range involved.

For NYAN, this has included the Nelson and District Arts Council (the mural), Nelson Boxing Club (an intro-to-boxing class) and Nelson Community Foods Centre (so youth could pick fruit and donate it to the food bank). The networks also reach out to smaller neighbouring communities. In NYAN’s case, regular visits to youth in Procter, Harrop and Balfour have resulted in activities like making sushi, tie-dying and performing science experiments.

Although new compared to the city’s youth centre, NYAN plans to continue positively influencing youth for a long time to come. “I’ve watched tons of the kids grow immensely,” Maglio says. “A lot’s going on here. I feel like right now we’re really flourishing.”

In addition to supporting community networks, the Basin Youth Network offers resources like workshops and toolkits on leadership, mindfulness and job readiness. It also aims to increase community-to-community interactions. For example, at the Leadership Summit, youth from across the region gather to develop their leadership skills and discover how to make a difference in their communities.

In late November 2021, the Youth Climate Action Forum is bringing youth together virtually to educate and inspire them to take action. The Trust also supports youth education through scholarships and bursaries, and youth employment through wage subsidy programs and a partnership with JA British Columbia.

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