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Surrey Steps Up with Record-Breaking Turnout at Youth-Driven Event.

On Friday, March 15th, The City of Surrey hosted it’s 6th Annual Surrey Steps Up event – a free event focused on highlighting local youth projects, and providing Surrey’s young adults with a fun night of performers, music, food, prizing, and networking opportunities. Inaugurated in 2014, the Surrey Steps Up was created as a follow-up to the Stop Bullying Film Contest, and “was designed to engage a wider range of youth in a broader range of activities” comments City of Surrey Communications Specialist, Amber Stowe.

“Surrey Steps Up was created to celebrate the positive impact young people are having on their schools and communities. It encourages and empowers Surrey’s youth to get involved in enhanced community vibrancy and safety. It serves as a call-to-action for youth to make a difference in their community, and to be recognized and acknowledged for their efforts. We want to give the youth an opportunity for new, healthy and positive peer-to-peer relationships and mentoring opportunities” says Stowe.

This event works to break down any stereotypes or stigma currently existing about youth in Surrey as well. “We have the stereotype that Surrey kids don’t really care, and don’t want to get involved. Surrey’s youth is pushing it (the event) forward and trying to be better and innovative. We want to show what we have to offer,” local youth, Sam Czulinski expresses.

In collaboration between the City of Surrey, Surrey RCMP and Surrey School District #36, a Youth Planning Team consisting of 20+ local youth gather to plan this event year-after-year in creating and spreading positive contributions in their community. The Youth Planning Team meets bi-weekly in preparation for the event.

Planning Team member Nicole Han explains that through her involvement with the planning group, “Not only [do] we develop our leadership skills, we also develop our communication skills and learn how to work in a team. It’s a really great experience to actually work together to plan one great event which usually doesn’t happen in school or anywhere else.”

“Being around the positive energy and vibes, and seeing all of the youth wanting to better our city makes everything worthwhile,” states Surrey School District Outreach Worker, Mark De La Cruz. This year’s free/open-to-the-public event showcased youth individuals and groups who have been ‘stepping up’ in the community from January to March 2019.

Youth were invited to feature their projects, good deeds and initiatives, or art, and are awarded prizes which often consist of tools that further support their passion projects. “All of the activities planned take shape based on the types of projects the youth submit and would like to feature,” explains Stowe. The Youth Planning Team also customized the additional activities at the event based on the themes of the youth which have been considered to have ‘stepped up’.

One of this year’s highlighted initiatives was the Queens of Pop – an all-girls youth group aged 14-17, who have started up a popcorn business with the end goal of reaching refugee students, and encouraging them to showcase their talents and abilities. This initiative is supported by Safe School and Solid State Industries – a non-profit organization working to build a network of worker-owned cooperatives with youth, contributing “counter-narratives of solidarity, cooperativism, hospital and generosity.” The work of Solid State Industries currently assists Surrey students in learning about the ins and outs of operating a business, and promotes positive contributions and interactions in the local community.

“Surrey has more young people than any other city in the province, and the youth in our city have a vital and pivotal role to play in shaping Surrey. Right across our city, Surrey’s youth are making big and small contributions to their schools, neighbourhoods, and the world – and we want to celebrate that” states Councillor Doug Elford during the event’s opening remarks, on behalf of Mayor Doug McCallum.

The huge turnout of 400+ attendees consisted of anyone from youth and their family members, to youth ‘adult allies’ such as teachers or school counsellors. Participants got to participate in Karaoke rounds, watch performances by various school Dance Teams, and hear various speakers such as City Councillor Doug Elford, Surrey RCMP Inspector, Wendy Mehat, and keynote speaker, Rochelle Prasad, Youth Engagement Coordinator for the City of Surrey and Founder of Camp We Empower.

Prasad spoke about her Surrey-based, youth for youth non-profit organization that aims to empower the next generation to take action for a better community and better world through ‘life education’. Another one of their key goals is to deter youth from the path of crime and violence. The Camp has been running for five years now and has empowered over 1500 Metro Vancouver participants over the years. They are best known for their ‘mega’ 4-day/3-night camp for high school participants and their Mini Series workshops for elementary-aged children.

Want to get involved in next year’s event? Keep an eye out for information on future registration details or to learn more about how you can join the Youth planning Team at www.surrey.ca/stepsup, or email youth@surrey.ca for more information (they accept participants at any time!). Don’t be scared! Listen to the wise words of Planning Team member Tracy Ngo, “Do it, all of us are welcoming and inviting.

Once you put yourself out there, it’s easier to build up the confidence and join other things – like sport teams – and make new friends.” And when Amteshwar Brar attended her first meeting she saw how everyone was interacting and collaborating and remembers thinking, “Okay, I’ll stay here, it looks fun!”

Robyn Freiheit

Robyn Freiheit

Robyn is a status-quo disruptor, an old-soul, and has a serious passion towards continuous learning driven by a curiosity for the unknown. A creative and equally analytical thinker with experience in leadership, project management and marketing strategy. When she’s not working you can find her in the kitchen, searching for new music, or meandering local thrift stores, antique stores, or flea markets for a unique find.