Using arts, culture to tap healthy lifestyle for young people
By Shari Narine
Edmond Collins is confident that he can draw upon his “love and passion for the arts” to help other young people tap into their culture and build healthy lifestyles.
The 25-year-old, who resides in Fort Williams First Nations, has been nominated to Cando’s National Youth Panel.
“Throughout my 25 years on this earth, I have experienced a lot and I’ve given everything. I’ve done the best I can. I’m still learning and I’m still growing. This thought is something I’ve always kept close to me. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but am sure it’s for the best,” he said. This is an outlook he can bring to the panel.
Writing and acting gave Collins much-needed confidence in his youth, as he struggled through his formal education, barely getting passing grades.
It wasn’t until he acted in a play about racism, a play that told the stories of others as well as the youth who were part of it, that Collins came to realize the importance of his own writing – works that he had thrown away.
“This gave me more confidence in myself as I had been an introvert through most of my life,” he said.
Then, at 18 years of age, Collins acted in an educational film for the Union of Ontario Chiefs that spoke about youth, sexuality, suicide and the struggles that many First Nation youth undergo as they grow. This led to the opportunity for him to tell his own stories.
“I was approached by a youth worker who was at Wapikoni. They were stationed in Fort William First Nation and knew about the stories I had in my mind. They asked if I would come and sit down with the directors to talk about a few of these stories. I would fight the thought of going but eventually I caved. I would walk in and find myself writing and acting, something I thought was gone from my path,” he said.
While Collins hopes this work will lead to a feature film in the upcoming years, he pays his bills as a labourer for GridLink, an electrical company working north of Nippon, Ontario, on the Trans Canada pipeline. He plans to receive training to further his career within the company.
Each year Cando selects six Indigenous youth to form the National Youth Panel, a signature event at the Cando Annual National Conference which will be held in Fredericton, New Brunswick, from Oct. 22-25. Selections for the panel are based on their strengths, initiatives, accomplishments, entrepreneurial spirit, and participation within their communities.