What’s Your Worth Windsor?
I am a 23 year old Windsor native. I’m proud to say I will stay and build my future in the Rose City. I fall into two different categories which are sometimes negatively viewed. I’m a Millennial and am a part of the Boomerang Generation. After moving away for school for four years, I came back to live with my parents as an adult; in the same house I was born and grew up in, on Campbell and University. But like they say, it’s location, location, location. As crazy as it may sound, I am more than content with my living situation. If I take a short walk North (yes North), which I do almost every day with my goofy golden retriever Tucker, I see classic landmarks such as, the Ambassador Bridge, a community pool, a skate park, and the two swans in the sculpture garden. Looking across the river at the Detroit skyline, there’s Joe Louis Arena, further down Boblo Island, and my personal favourite the old, abandoned Michigan Central Station. I don’t have my licence, but in the car going down Riverside Drive, looking at the skyline Windsorites get from across the border mesmerizes me, especially at night.
Windsor-Essex, or as many local campaigns have appropriately nicknamed it WE, is however, wrongly stereotyped. It is seen as being out-dated, weak, “Earth’s rectum” (Stephen Colbert 2012), and most incorrectly, not a place for youth to live and thrive. Yes, Windsor has taken a lot of hits in the past many years. Yes, Windsor’s economy isn’t what it used to be back when. No, we do not have the beautiful mountainous landscape of the Rockies, or the oil sands and seemingly endless number of jobs in the West. Windsor is flat. But WE are certainly not falling flat. What I previously illustrated is but a fraction of the interesting and beautiful areas around the city. Personally, and I know I’m not alone, but I’d take the shores of the Great Lakes over the mountains in The Rockies any day. No matter where I am coming from, I know when I see the wind turbines, I’m almost home. What we have to offer is not just comparable, it is unique and equal in its own right. But, how can I sell this to young people who are looking to go to a place where they can be at the heart of it all? People want to be where the action is.They want to live in an already booming city like Vancouver, but forget all the work it takes to make some place what it is has been done already by those native to the city. It’s the people who choose to live in it and work for it that makes a city worthy.
In Sociology, there is something called generactivity. This is defined as the ability to move past one’s own interests and toward helping the generations to come. Theorists consider the successful transmission of values, skills, nurturing, and traditions among generations the purpose of life. Now to me, that’s a little heavy, but there’s a bit of a point there. I volunteer for a group which has opened up my eyes to what Windsor is and what it will be. Not what it can be, but will be. You hear the stories of youth graduating and not finding jobs. That the only jobs hiring young professionals are out West or at the local call centres. This is not true. There is a disconnect between the opportunities available in Windsor and the youth seeking them. This doesn’t mean a lack of opportunities in Windsor. My past year is a clear indicator that the WE community is willing to invest in youth. One example is Windsor Soup, a new initiative started by Pathway to Potential and Odette. It is an innovative program that encourages youth to pursue their ideas. The last Soup winner was a student hoping to create a youth centre.
There are many misconceptions that people have about WE and the youth niche. Windsor’s tradition of being an automotive manufacturing and skilled trade city is still strong. They say that there are no jobs and there is nothing to do. There are not just jobs but careers available here. The skilled trades and fields of science, technology, engineering and math are hiring, but we need to know about these careers before we make post secondary school decisions. This requires industry, schools and families to come to the table. This doesn’t mean talking at youth. It means talking with youth. You might think that our ideas are unrealistic but how do you expect us to call a place home if we have zero input in shaping it? How do you expect us to feel connected to the community if we aren’t valued as a part of it?
If we want youth to stay in Windsor, we, as a community, need to do a better job at communicating with them. Enter into a dialogue with us and listen to what we have to say. We cannot expect to keep youth in Windsor if we do not have a defined place for us to fulfill in the community. We are constantly told that we are inexperienced; we need to have years of experience to even apply for unpaid internships. We feel that our skills, talents and experience are not being valued. Want us to stay? Then… change that. What other role can WE youth have other than students and part-time workers? We know what is important to us and if you engage our interests then we will feel a part of the community. Have faith in the people and the place and you will see what that gives back to you. Your investments will be returned tenfold.