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Youth in Halifax just need good jobs 

How the city can do better in supporting young people

DeRico Symonds, currently employed full time with Halifax Regional Municipality as a Program Manager with the Youth Advocate Program. He has advocated for communities across HRM for issues including but not limited to: Poverty, unemployment, affordable housing, marginalization and community violence. He has an undergraduate degree in child and youth study, and completed a MEd in counselling at Acadia University (2018). Follow him on Twitter @dericosymonds. - RILEY SMITH
  • DeRico Symonds, currently employed full time with Halifax Regional Municipality as a Program Manager with the Youth Advocate Program. He has advocated for communities across HRM for issues including but not limited to: Poverty, unemployment, affordable housing, marginalization and community violence. He has an undergraduate degree in child and youth study, and completed a MEd in counselling at Acadia University (2018). Follow him on Twitter @dericosymonds.
  • RILEY SMITH

I have been working with youth and communities in the Halifax Regional Municipality for 15 years. I grew up in the Bayer's Westwood (The Pubs) public housing community. I understand first-hand the challenges experienced by those living in poverty, who struggle financially and are doing what they need to do just to survive.

Society labels young people who commit crimes as criminals and they are forever branded with a criminal record, banishing them to the realm of non-hired lists by employers who require a clean criminal record. As if they haven't already experienced barriers and challenges, they now have a significantly more difficult time acquiring employment.

I believe the majority of people engage in crime and criminal activity out of necessity. Rob and steal? "My rent is due, and I have no other option." Sell drugs? "I need to feed my family, and nobody is hiring me." I strongly believe that we could solve a lot of crime and criminal activity by hiring youth into meaningful jobs at a reasonable wage.

The young people I've spoken with who are currently engaging in illegal activity or have in the past have said, "I have no problem working a nine-to-five but nobody will hire me," or "It's urgent for me out here and I just need an opportunity." Someone's circumstance is not an excuse for engaging in criminal activity, but it is one of many ways to explain their behaviour.

I believe we have the solutions to the issues that we see within our city and within our society, but fail to look at things from a different perspective. There is danger in the mentality of "that's the way we've always done it." I have seen extremely qualified youth with diplomas, certificates and work experience resort to illegal activity to survive because employers are not calling back and their situations are urgent.

The powers that be do not want to truly make change.

We have had some of the same issues for hundreds of years. We are aware of the issues as they have been raised for years. If you are a decision maker in a system such as education, justice or health and more, do you really want to make positive change? And, if yes, change for who?

While people suffer in community, adults making six-figure salaries are arguing about their own politics and their personal feuds between different parties or organizations. Often many decisions are not about serving the people for the greater good, they are about appeasing colleagues and their base supporters to keep their job and retire wealthy.

We have real heroes in our city and in our communities who are volunteering countless hours each day to serve people. We have full-time teachers who give their personal time to help kids learn to read, we have people providing meals and shelter for those who do not have them. All of these things and more happen because people truly want change to happen, and this is all done on a $0-budget.

If we all do a little bit, then nobody has to do a lot alone. Its not just about doing the right thing, its about doing the right thing right. 

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Vol 27, No 43
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