Being the first of the new year, I expected tired eyes, cold minds (particularly with the miserable weather Andover’s been not enjoying lately) and many distractions from productivity. However, when the very opposite occurred, I was more than pleasantly surprised!
The meeting was Chaired by Rebecca West; overseen by the good humoured and encouraging Councillor Geoff McBride; accompanied by several members of the Andover Town Council Youth Council Advisory Panel. Notably, the Assistant Principle of Andover College Stuart Barlow has joined the Panel. Unfortunately, Councillor Fitchet was unable to attend.
First on the agenda was the allocation of Vice Chair of the AYC – someone to take over and oversee meetings when the current Chairman (or Chairwoman) Rebecca is unable to attend – and, in my humble opinion, the Youth Councillors could not have made a better choice; Emily Fraser.
Emily Fraser is a student at Winton School and has been a part of the AYC since the beginning of this new incarnation. When I first had the privilege to meet Miss Fraser, she was a very passionate, strong willed and active member of the council; never afraid to speak out for what she believes in and make confident, carefully considered suggestions of how to better our small town.
Regardless of her abscence from December’s meeting, Miss Fraser contributed enormously to this meeting – taking issues responsibly and maturely into her own hands – and choosing (without being asked to do so) to speak to a local group of young people she knows, aged 15 – 17, in the King Arthurs Way area; asking them what they want in and around Andover. The response she got was more than interesting as, among other issues/wants/needs, these young people listed:
More activities and events for people aged 14 – 16.
More short courses for young people (ending in the receipt of a small qualification/certificate).
Repairs carried out on the Chantry Centre roof.
Miss Fraser was also able to speak to a number of King Arthurs Way Youth Club workers who stated that the young people they worked with had expressed a desire for more mental health support for young people in Andover aged between 13 & 17.
Of course, having gathered this information, it’s now up to the AYC to take action on the issues that, as a collective, they are practically able to. This, however, did not seem to phase them as they discussed where and how best to start drawing up an action plan, impressed with the sensitivity and attention to detail that the young people questioned had given to the thoughts of improving our town.
This is where the newest member of the AYC – Frankie Vallence – showed his strengths. Having accompanied Emily Fraser to this meeting to get a ‘feel’ for what the Council does, Vallence settled in quickly and, by the end, found his place comfortably in the group; maturely contributing to suggestions of improvements and providing practical actions. The Leisure Centre, for example, he said was too expensive for young people to join and regularly use; this needs to change. Andover College’s Assistant Principle advised that the College may be able to assist in resolving this. It is, naturally, something to be discussed and explored at length at a later date but – even as a concept – shows that local organisations are, indeed, taking the wants and needs of Andover’s young people seriously.
In conjunction with this, the importance of the AYCs placement in the local community was very much demonstrated at this meeting. Andover College have urged the AYC to take a stand at their Freshers’ Fayre on 6th February in order to promote themselves, get the young people in Andover talking & discussing local politics and, not forgetting, giving the AYC the opportunity to listen to the people they’re representing. Though the date is fast approaching, the AYC plan to take the opportunity to attend.
The first AYC meeting for 2014 was one very much used for laying foundations and making plans; to reach a wider audience, to pool their resources – the AYC will be meeting within the next 2 weeks to discuss the practicalities of their introductory video for Social Media – and to gather information received through new connections made.
Whilst change – big or small – takes time to implement, the Youth Councillors are making progress, increasing in confidence and are more passionate than I ever have seen them; Theo Youds is set on the idea of creating a Youth Coffee Shop and Wifi Hotspot for young people aged between 14 & 17 who want to hang out, get coffee and use the internet or play computer games with friends. A popular idea I think could benefit people and businesses alike. I’m pleased to say the AYC think so too! Mr. Youds has also set up the required Facebook groups – discussed at the previous meeting – and will shortly be setting up a Twitter account aimed at relaying important local information specifically to young people who need to know it.
All in all; spirits remain high and plans progressing positively. 2014 will be a strong and exciting year for the young people of Andover, there is no doubt.