Valleyview secondary students were at Kamloops City Hall on Wednesday, making pitches to city staff.
Staff wanted to know how youth envision downtown.
Whether you’re eight or 80 years old, city planner Jason Locke explained: “It’s important that their voice is represented in this process so, as planners, we are creating a community and neighbourhood of the downtown for all ages.”
Two weeks ago, Locke attended Maria Paccagnella’s Grade 11 socials studies class — which is focused on government, law and social justice — and presented work done on the downtown plan.
This past Wednesday, students visited city hall to present, with PowerPoint, their own ideas. They met Mayor Ken Christian and, for many of them, it was their first time in council chambers.
One student said city hall was smaller than expected. Another’s parent works for the city, so it was no big deal.
When it came time to present, one student said she was nervous — oral presentations are not usually favoured by students, let alone when they are done at city hall.
Overall, Paccagnella said, her students surpassed expectations, doing better than their dry run in class.
“They stepped it up,” she said.
Presentations included ideas for entertainment, beautification, infrastructure and transportation.
One student suggested more frequent transit, having missed the bus downtown to make her presentation.
More music downtown — perhaps a downtown music festival — was among desired entertainment options, while one student suggested a roller rink in the former Value Village location, which could include arcade games and provide a place for teens to hangout.
“It’s just something new,” student Genevive Clark said.
Students also suggested adding more garbage and recycling cans to clean up downtown, in addition to more green space, pedestrian access and help for those living on the streets.
Last summer, the city undertook a pilot project with a pedestrian plaza on Fourth Avenue.
Students like the idea and Locke said feedback was consistent with what the city has previously heard.
“What surprised me most was how astute they were and how in touch they were with what makes successful downtowns,” Locke said, noting the feedback will be included in the plan.
Paccagnella said it was the first time she has taken a class to city hall. Now that the students got a taste, they want more engagement from the city.
Calling the visit a big step, students stressed the city has work to do in reaching out to youth.
Locke said youth are hard to reach in terms of city engagement because they do not typically attend open houses.
He said the city has learned in the past 15 to 20 years to access input beyond such typical events.
Online tools — such as the Let’s Talk website — allow the city to be more creative.
In addition, planners began visiting classrooms during the past few years, including while working on KamPlan. The city’s junior council also provides input.
Youth provided more suggestions for reaching out, such as more in-person engagement and through their favoured online platforms: Snapchat and Instagram.