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Local2SaultYouth: Struggles and Strives with Substance

Spencer Rice, Sault Youth Association for local2 sault ste. marie
June 17th, 2011 at 9:58am

This article is a column or editorial.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of LOCAL2.


Spencer Rice
Credit: Sault Youth Association

Sault Ste. Marie is a city with much potential. It is a city with hope and a city with hopelessness. As with every place in the world; there are those with and those without. The magic of Sault Ste. Marie, however, is the strong presence of creativity and diligence. Those without learn to survive and those with learn how to thrive. Within this imbalance of with and without is where hopelessness resides. It is from this hopelessness that coping mechanisms are put in to place. They take different forms but among the youth in this community it manifests dominantly in substance abuse.

I am not from Sault Ste. Marie. It was at the age of 14 that I first called Sault Ste. Marie home. I was a newcomer with as much potential as anyone else but found it very difficult to create strong social ties because I was not one to conform to the thoughts and beliefs of only one group. From this, I struggled to appease to different groups of friends and with the build-up of personal issues I began to seek refuge in other means of social activity. These means included partying, drinking, and substance abuse. As strange as it may sound; there seemed to be a greater sense of closeness while sharing the experience of intoxication than that of sobriety. It seemed to me, at that time, intoxication was the only place in which I could find community.

What began to change my perspective is the drive to change that sense of community into one that embraces sobriety. It was a vision that sought balance in social class and opportunity. It was my leadership roles that gave me the resources and openings to create change within myself. Youth leadership was my chance to embrace sobriety and healthy lifestyles. From this realization I assume that if those youth who may feel excluded or hopeless had opportunities to lead and help others than they too may feel compelled to better themselves as they wish for our community. If this is true, then it is not a lack of activity forcing youth into unhealthy choices but a lack of chances to demonstrate their abilities.

If I were to paint you the picture of my perfect community it would look like the tie-dye tees of the 1960ís. It is a reference that symbolizes the interaction of people of different classes, ages, and backgrounds representing different colours all working as one to achieve harmonized synchronicity. In actuality, there would be strong intergenerational ties, community kinship, empathetic leaders, and the existence of solidarity. One of the ways in which Iíve been hoping to establish these ideals is through the creation of a youth centre. The Youth Centre concept is often misconstrued as a public meeting ground for young miscreants without a purpose for the betterment of the greater community. However, in my mind a youth centre would act as the primary vessel for youth centred community services. It would become a hub of positive activity containing connections to mental health help, spaces for arts and media, self-esteem development, housing assistance, financial counselling, skill building workshops, travel opportunities and many other capacity building programs.

These are the things that I know Sault Ste. Marie has the potential to create. Sault Ste. Marie has the potential to be a northern leader in community development. I want to be a part of that potential. I want to hold hands with the many others who want the same. I want to help to build a safer, more inclusive, diverse and respectful Sault Ste. Marie for you, for your parents, for your children and for those who come after us. We will do it!


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