Alberta government invests in Fort McMurray youth

Alberta government invests in Fort McMurray youth

At Wood Buffalo Safe and Healthy Community Network, an Alberta government grant will fund a program that teaches grade eight students in Fort McMurray how to draw the line when it comes to taking risks in their lives.

Program coordinator, Elaine Reid says it is about educating kids to make informed choices like wearing a helmet on an ATV or refusing to get into a car with an impaired driver. An unusually high number of injuries involving falls and vehicle accidents among youth spurred the program and it has already had an impact she says.

“This is a starting point for youth to realize that they don’t have to go around with peers and make decisions they’re not comfortable with,” Reid said. “Students have been telling me they’re going to make better choices and that they are going to influence their peers to make better choices.”

Last week the Alberta government’s Community Initiatives Program announced funding for seven community projects in Wood Buffalo communities. The grants, totaling $425,000, aim to help at a grassroots level by putting money in the hands of those who know where it is needed said Jeff Johnson, MLA for Athabasca-Redwater in an Alberta government press release.

“Our nonprofit and volunteer organizations are in the best position to identify and find ways to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “Investing in these organizations and the work they are doing benefits all Albertans.”

To help youth keep fit, a grant of $125,000 went to MacDonald Island Park Corporation to help pay for an outdoor rink it used to host the Northern Classic, Canada’s first outdoor Junior ‘A’ tournament. According to Tim Reid, Chief Operating Officer, the event was a “spectacular success” with media coverage across the country, but the grant also offered opportunities for another community in need when the games finished.

“The legacy was that we donated the boards back to the community of Gregoire, a town in the region that really needs an outdoor ice surface for hockey and skating,” Reid said.

The Anzac Lil Lakers Resource Centre in the rural town of Anzac received grants totaling nearly $100,000 to pay for its robotics and early childhood education (ECE) programs where kids learn to build and program robots along with their ABCs, basic writing and socialization skills. Executive Director Cindy McIntosh said these programs help kids live better lives down the road.

“The impact is going to be huge,” she said. “The kids that go to our ECE programs wouldn’t have been able to go without this money. These kids now have a head start to excel in education throughout their lives.”

McIntosh says the decision to teach kids to build and program toy robots was based on offering them an opportunity they wouldn’t normally have that would grab their interest. Beyond just having fun, the kids will also be learning valuable skills she said.

“Building the robots will increase their computer skills and improve their logic and reasoning by the act of figuring it all out and writing computer programs, it will help them later in life by getting them into sciences and computer programming which they can take further into their career.”

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