The Centennial Centre in Bonnyville welcomed 500+ teens for the 8th Annual Tribal Chiefs Council Family Services (TCCFS) East Society Youth Conference on March 19th & 20th. Youths were able to take in a multitude of workshops, hear guest speakers, and be inspired by one-another.
Community Programs Coordinator, Kimberley John Hymanyk, “we have a youth conference that services five to six hundred kids each year; it keeps growing. We try to target as many age groups, from 12-17 [years old] as we can.”
Hosted by Kehewin, the conference saw teens from all over Alberta and Saskatchewan; including, Frog Lake, Cold Lake First Nations, Fishing Lake, Goodfish Lake.
“We service Kehewin and Frog Lake members,” Hymanyk explained that the conference is hosted by both Nations and rotates each year on who will host it. This year was Kehewin’s turn to host.
“We open it up to everyone else who can come. You do not need to be indigenous to come to the conference,” Hymanyk said the conference has an open invite to all students. It was free to attend for Kehewin & Frog Lake band members and $100 for non-members.
This year’s youths were fortunate enough to experience workshops in Cree language, powwow instruction, youth advocacy, sports instruction, health & wellness, yoga, suicide prevention, drug awareness & recovery, hoop dancing, bullying prevention, and much more.
“We have a lot of positive self-esteem and drug awareness programs. Addiction is a problem for us, so we have a lot of preventive measures on how we can steer these kids away from that,” Hymanyk said the conference is about learning and growing opportunities for the teens.
Local companies got involved by hosting presentations for the youths, said Hymanyk, “Imperial Oil came out and presented what’s offered for the indigenous community, once they’ve graduated.”
Along with a great array of workshops, the conference had some amazing and inspiring guest speakers; including, Ted & Brandon Nolan (NHL), Joey Stylez (rap artist), Michael Linklater (Basketball), Troy & Violet Duncan (powwow dancers), Dallas Scoonias (Olympic medalist, volleyball), Nathaniel Arcand (actor), The Marty Brothers (actors, from Frog Lake), Earl Lambert, Jaimie Thibeault
“Our biggest hit, so far, is ‘Rock the Runway’,” each year there are local designers involved in a fashion show.
This year’s event featured Miss Teen Universe Canada, Thaliya Dion. Dion is from Frog Lake and recently competed in Nicaragua for the title of Miss Teen Universe, representing Canada. The fashion show included free haircuts and make-up application.
A popular event was the hockey clinic, lead by former Buffalo Sabres Head Coach, Ted Nolan.
There was even an audition station for the popular TV show Outlander. Many youths and people from the public came out to audition for a role on the show that films in Scotland. The show was hosting open auditions, calling for indigenous actors.
“With the conference being so big, we have so many kids going all over,” Hymanyk explained the organizers wanted to make sure all interests were hit. New this year was dream catcher weaving, horse teaching, and bath soap making; all were both very popular.
The event featured a trade show with many vendors from across Alberta, as well as a career fair.
“The kids look forward to it,” the event is every March, confirmed Hymanyk. Next year’s event will be hosted in Frog Lake.