Emma Potts of Agassiz is speaking at Ignite Abbotsford on Oct. 11 to give a personal perspective on problems facing at-risk youth. (Nina Grossman/Black Press)

Agassiz student to speak on youth issues at Ignite Abbotsford

Emma Potts, 17, to give audience a new perspective on ‘problem’ youth

Agassiz Centre for Education (ACE) student Emma Potts is speaking at Ignite Abbotsford on Oct. 11.

A more casual version of a TEDx talk, Ignite allows each speaker five minutes and 20 timed slides to get their message across to the audience.

Potts, 17, has been a student at ACE for two years. Her Ignite talk is titled: An Alternative Perspective to “Problem” Youth. Having been labelled a “problem” youth herself, Potts says she wants her talk to raise awareness about the damaging effects cause by putting people, especially youth, in a box.

“I think there are a lot of stereotypes when it comes to kids,” she says. “When people call a kid a ‘problem youth,’ the first thing that comes to my mind is, ‘self-labelling causes self-enabling.’ “

To Potts, this means that youth who constantly hear they are problems will have low self-esteem and are more likely to act the way they are perceived.

When people expect little of you, youth often think, “Fine, I’ll show you that,” the ACE student adds.

“I know for me and many of my friends, when we were going through hard things [such as] drugs or low self-esteem and just not wanting to be in school, it was because of the way people perceived us and adults treated us – not really as equals.”

Potts says ACE has changed that experience because the school treats the kids as youth dealing with problems, rather than as “problem” youth.

“We feel like a family here,” she says.

After losing a close friend to suicide when she was 14, Potts started to think about how she could help other youth who are struggling.

“I have a lot of things that I want to talk about and get out there to the world,” she says. “From what I see in society and the way that the system works, especially in schools […] it’s really hard to get the help that you need.”

“I want to see change happen. And I think the first way for change to happen is to make it happen.”

Ignite Abbotsford is focused on generating positive and meaningful conversations about mental health and wellness. With a number of great speakers, the goal is to increase awareness and understanding of how to support all community members.

The talks will be held Oct. 11 at the Phoenix Ballroom, with doors opening at 6 p.m. Tickets are selling fast and can be purchased at eventbrite.com.