Guest speaker Michael Bortolotto

Guest speaker Michael Bortolotto

Youth summit encourages healthy choices

Youth Empowerment Summit held at Journey Middle School

RCMP Cpl. Scott Hilderley doesn’t get bothered by much anymore. In the span of 31 years as a police officer, he’s been shot at, run over with a car, attacked with an axe – even clubbed in the head.

But there’s one thing that breaks his heart every time: seeing youth plummet over the edge due to drug addiction and bad decisions.

“I hate to see kids lose their way. I see them when they lose their passion for life, lose their direction, and start making bad choices,” he said. “These days, those bad choices can catch up to you faster than ever before.”

Hilderley presents drug-prevention sessions every year called the Youth Empowerment Summit at Journey Middle School, along with the school’s youth council, to create awareness for youth. This time, though he did it differently – instead of lecturing the mantra, he listened.

“When I met with the kids, I asked them, what do you guys need, what you won’t learn in the school, what do you need to survive, to thrive as growing students into adulthood?” he said.

The students came through, showing curiosity about resiliency, healthy relationships, making healthy choices, stress management, family, balancing social life and school, and social belonging.

The day-long session was split into multiple sections, each one featuring a guest speaker that discussed a topic chosen by the students.

Starting off was motivational speaker Michael Bortolotto, who talked about resiliency, the importance of nourishing one’s talent, and his personal lifelong battle and drive to conquer cerebral palsy.

“Your brain is the most important thing you have going for you. You can lose an arm, a finger, a leg, but you can’t lose a brain. I can change me because I can think,” Bortolotto said.

Bortolotto’s resounding message was to never forget about chasing one’s dream and passion, regardless of what challenges may lay ahead.

“You have to be very selfish. I encourage you to be selfish, don’t listen to what other people say you can’t do or you won’t ever do.”