Teens take part in City of Character Youth Forum

The event in Abbotsford featured guest speakers, workshops and activities.

Olympic soccer player Sophie Schmidt was among speakers at a City of Character Youth Forum on Friday

More than 100 students, representing dozens of Abbotsford schools, decided not to take the day off on Friday, Oct. 19.

While the majority of kids enjoyed a Pro-D day, these community-minded teens were at W. J. Mouat Secondary to take part in the Abbotsford City of Character Youth Forum. The half-day event featured guest speakers – including Olympic bronze medal soccer player Sophie Schmidt – as well as workshops and activities.

“We have five reps from 24 middle and secondary schools in the city, public and private,” explained Vijay Manuel, Mouat’s vice-principal and chair of the Abbotsford City of Character council.

The purpose of the forum was to share the vision of City of Character with the students. The vision is six values that were chosen by city leaders in 2011. They include respect, responsibility, integrity, empathy, courage and service.

Manuel said the students were asked to create action plans on how they want to promote those values in their school communities.

“It could be the littlest thing like improving politeness in our building. It could be about the bullying thing, that’s pretty sensitive right now. It could be around doing homework more, or coming to class on time. It can be really simple actions.”

In two months, one rep from each school will be called back to discuss how the action plans are working.

“Then we’ll do the whole thing again next year.”

Zack Melhus acted as MC for the event. The Mouat grad attended last year’s forum as a Grade 12 student, and decided to remain involved.

He said the idea of character is really just “treating others in a way you want to be treated.”

He hopes students will take inspiration and initiative from the event to “take this up on their own.”

The Abbotsford City of Character movement began in 2006 when three local school representatives went to a character conference in Toronto.

In 2011, community leaders in Abbotsford established the six values, followed by an official Abbotsford Character Council.

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