This project - overseen by Councillor McBride and advised by a Panel of local people from Andover’s Youth Community and Education organisations and Chaired by Jess Elliot- is run primarily by young people, for young people. Behind it lies two years of strategic planning and researching. This, along with the prospective 3, 6, and 9 year plans, show with unwavering passion that Andover Youth Council (AYC) is here to stay.
AYC gives 14 - 17 year olds in our area a voice, an ear, and a helping hand; encouraging this age group to get together and take action to change the community in which they live: facilitating them in recognising and implementing what they feel they need.
Will anybody listen?
Naturally, at this point, anyone would question whether a board of 14 - 17 year olds would have any weighting or influence to take action on decisions made, and make any real difference to their community.
AYC’s backbone is Andover Town Council who have given them £1000 of funding along with their valuable support and expertise.
The Councillors involved with the project - including Councillor Andy Fichet - are more than clear where the boundaries lie and their responsibilities are placed; listening.
Every new generation, in its youth, inherently feels as though it struggles to be heard above a palimpsest of older, dismissive, seemingly ‘wiser’ people who apparently know better. Every generation, in its youth, feels as though it is silenced or repressed mainly due to its age. How many times were we told as teenagers, by Parents and Grandparents or adults you hardly knew: “You’ll understand when you’re older” or “You’re too young to do that…”?
AYCs mission is to get away from that frankly old fashioned mindset and empower the young.
Empowering the young
Andover’s current teens are the future of the community; they are the next generation who will be bringing in the wages, paying taxes, voting, controlling exactly how this town is run. AYC recognises that and has embraced that. By getting young people involved in local politics as early as possible we imagine the AYC will encourage a strong sense of connection to the town; cultivating social and environmental responsibility.
Breaking down barriers
Councillor McBride Chairman of Andover Town Council doesn’t identify himself as a “Politician”. He sees himself as a normal man who cares about the environment in which he lives, He wishes to ‘break down’ the barriers traditionally raised between Politicians and young people - MPs are like the rest of us - and “‘Politics’ doesn’t have to be a dirty word” he said on Saturday.
AYC not only offers a safe space for young people to meet and take action on their local environment, but it will also offer training courses to those involved - aiming to teach and train them in areas such as, politics and committee leadership - hoping to raise young people’s confidence as well as sparking their creativity and passion on a long-term basis.
Creativity and passion at heart
“Creativity” and “passion” were words very much at the heart of the AYC’s first meeting at The Guildhall on Saturday afternoon. Their “Pizzathon” (yes, there was free pizza and it was good) attracted young people from all over Andover in double figures - not bad for the pilot of a fledgling initiative - who came together, with the task of answering the question: “if we could ‘build’ you something in Andover that would help you, what would it be?”.
The response was nothing less than energising. Like any call for public opinion, some ideas revolved around making changes out of Andover Town Council’s control, but a lot of them had no end of vibrant potential. Most promisingly, though, whilst the meeting was still open and ideas were still flying, Councillor McBride and his team discussed the practicalities of making these ideas a reality, showing that this project is serious in its intentions.
There may, naturally, be some worry or speculation over the choices made and ideas put forth to the board from members who are so young. What’s realistic and what isn’t? What would benefit the community and its young people, what would only hinder? This, of course, is another reason why Andover Town Councillors are there to oversee every meeting. Not only to make ideas realities but also to make sure, for the benefit of all involved, every idea brings with it a wake of sensibility and reward (whether that be socially or through education).
AYC will also fundraise for its own causes, run in parallel with the school year. It has already been working with local schools and will operate on the understanding that this project is one of endurance and longevity. All good things take time to come into fruition!
The next Andover Youth Council meeting is set for this Saturday, 3rd August, between 1 & 4pm at Vigo Park. If you’re young and have something to say, or just want to build on your confidence, check it out. You won’t regret it.
For more information:
Contact Andover Town Council
This article is written for Inspired Community by Sophie Porter, Freelance Writer