I love this city. It is full of passion, opportunity and a whole lot of community. I'm finding that the longer I live here, the deeper and faster I fall in love. With the majestic mountains an hour to the west, the spirit of compassion and hard work and the beauty in the little, everyday moments, it's hard to not to love where we get to live. The other night, I had the privilege of celebrating our amazing city - its landmarks, its innovations and its quirks - with a group of inspiring young people who shared what makes Calgary home to them.
This group is GenNext. It is a collective of young people who desire to explore social issues in Calgary and share their experiences through photography.
The program runs for 14 weeks. During this time, participants are exposed to different issues, organizations and momentums through tours, speakers and others. At the end of the program, the participants are given an assignment: express how Calgary moves you using photographs.
Each participant takes three or four photos of spaces, places and representations of something they feel speaks to the heart of Calgary.
The program culminates in a gala-style celebration where they have the opportunity to tell their stories and we can talk about what makes Calgary's heart beat.
For some, it is the impressive forward-thinking opportunities held in the ever-expanding East Village. For others, it is the tradition, the history of important landmarks like the King Edward Hotel. For some, it was the community brought together by food, such as Food Truck Frenzy, or by music, such as the city's bursting music scene on Music Mile.
Whatever the story and however it was presented, the facts remain: there is a lot of social injustice right in our backyard. But there is a lot of heart, too. There is a community, a movement led by the ones in the shadows, the ones who serve with humility and grace, the ones bold enough to share these stories.
At the end of the day, this is our home. We get to define it. How it shapes us. How it moves us. Dr. Lucy Miller said it best: We are Calgary. Let's build the best city we can.
Congratulations to all the GenNext Urban Exposure Project participants. You told your stories well. Let's share and build upon them.
A couple of thank yous:
United Way Calgary - for everything you do to raise awareness of and call to action for the social issues so many of our families, neighbours and friends face every day. This is an important initiative, and you insight and leadership goes a long way to make the lives of Calgarians better every day. GenNext Committee - for organizing this incredible project and sharing these stories during this event. The discussion you've created around our wonderful city ripples into change. Stories like these can and do change lives.
Paper St. - for your generosity and hard work to host us. For feeding us and making sure there was plenty of bubbly to go around. I can't wait to come back and eat everything to your menu when you officially open.
Thank you to everyone for such a lovely evening talking about the real stuff, the nitty gritty of our city.
Until next time,