Written by Janet Davies
Peter Berg has joined the ROC as the Program Coordinator focused on the new YES program – that’s Youth Entrepreneurial Success. We spoke with him about where he’s from and where he’s going.
SO WHAT BRINGS YOU HERE?
“I’m from Ottawa but decided I wanted to move to The County six years ago. For the last eight years I worked mainly with youth with developmental disabilities and ran summer camps. I’d been helping friends to rebuild a house and start a new life here and I’d fallen in love with The County. It is just so beautiful. I went back to Ottawa, back to school, but I kept coming back for visits. I was meeting people every time and building a network until I realized I had more and better friendships here than in Ottawa, despite having lived there all my life. There’s a vibe in the people here that is a combination of the desire to build a life they have chosen and a real ethical spirit, too. There is a huge creative and entrepreneurial spirit. I like that importance of community you feel in a small place. Knowing all your neighbours holds you to a higher level of accountability! That’s partly why I moved here. To be in a small enough community that everyone has to try a little harder to be kind to each other, because you all know each other.”
“I studied philosophy and comparative value systems,” says Peter, “and I think living in this modern world we have to put faith in the idea that people can figure out their own way. Being part of a community where people feel responsible to be kind and open with each other fosters good retrospection and personal growth. I like that.”
WHAT ELSE DOES HE LIKE?
Peter shares, “I decided to move here in December 2016. I didn’t know what I would do but I’d figure it out. When I got here, I heard about the ROC position. It was working with youth, right in my wheelhouse. I have been blessed in my life, I have so much and I get great enjoyment from giving back. I’ve been handed the chance to contribute and connect with youth and the business community in one package. “
“I’ve just started, and I’m working on fitting onto an established team,” Peter continues. “It’s a steep learning curve and a fun one. I am excited to learn about all the other ROC programs. I have a background in the arts and I’m mentoring one of the guys performing in the ROC’N Revue in May. Opportunities abound here, and I can’t wait to make the most of it.”
THE YES PROGRAM (YOUTH ENTREPRENEUR SUCCESS)
The goal of the YES program is to empower youth to develop job skills, connect with mentors from the local business community and inspire youth entrepreneurship in Prince Edward County. With youth-selected skill-based activities, workshops led by successful entrepreneurs and visits to local businesses where youth can speak with leaders from different sectors, the YES program assists youth in developing self-confidence and entrepreneur skills.
“The fun part will be getting to know the kids one by one,” says Peter, “finding out what they hope to do after high school, or with the younger ones get a sense of their hobbies, their interests. To me, entrepreneurship is about self-expression. The better I get to know them and their interests, the better use I can make of my network of acquaintances, new people I meet, local businesspeople.”
Peter observes that people here seem to want to give back, to contribute. “When I meet people and tell them what I am doing, they usually want to help out. Finding entrepreneurs with experience and skills to share is not going be the hard part. For example, local furniture maker Joe Carroll is going to meet a few who are really interested in creation, in particular a couple of guys thinking of going into carpentry and deciding where to go to school next year. He has a lot of information that will excite them, like how you can work with Nascar, cool things he has learned along the way. He says if somebody had told him about certain opportunities when he was 18 he might have gone a very different way.”
Peter shares, “We hear that a lot: ‘If I had only known about that when I was young.’ Well, we can show the kids possibilities, reasons for staying here. That’s why visiting Chris Crawford at KA Media will be great. Some of their teachers taught Chris when he was at school in Picton. Now he is a successful entrepreneur in The County. The kids will see local success stories and also meet new people who moved here because they love it. Hopefully that will help will bridge the gap, because there is undeniably a disconnect between people who move here all enthusiastic and local youth who feel they have to move away because they think there’s nothing here for them. The more we can connect people, the better.”
A LITTLE BACKGROUND ON THIS FOCUS ON YOUTH
Peter has grasped the importance of youth retention in The County. When the Community Economic Development Commission identified the “youth gap” as a growing concern for people in Prince Edward County they made youth engagement and retention a priority. Staff looked at ways to support and foster that. They researched efforts that were already going on to engage and retain youth and discovered the ROC was one of the best organizations to support.
That support was passed in council in Autumn 2016 and this exciting program was created fast and efficiently. The business community came onboard with enthusiasm and 11 businesses got involved right away.
Peter says, “When I took this position and was handed the list of businesses all ready to support the program, I realized I already knew seven or eight of them. When people are engaged around here, they are truly, seriously engaged. I am absolutely full of hope and enthusiasm for this project and I’ll be eager to share the news as things happen. Stay tuned!”