Pair bring a piece of country to Toronto

It’s a tale that closely resembles the one about the country mouse and the city mouse. But this one was real-life.
Local 4-H members Stacey Angus, 16, and Simone LeBlanc, 18, took part in “Today’s Leaders, Tomorrow’s Issues,” a workshop Aug. 23-25 at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto for about 60 rural and urban youths from across the province.
The pair were able to share their country living experiences with people their own age, and both say it was an “awesome” experience they’ll never forget.
“Meeting the city kids was quite an experience,” LeBlanc said, noting there are some things–like where veal comes from, and knowing cows don’t produce milk until after they calf–people in rural areas take for granted.
“They don’t really have the opportunity to know that stuff,” Angus explained.
But LeBlanc insisted there were things city kids also take for granted–like knowing how to use Toronto’s public transit system.
“The first day we tackled public transportation and we failed,” she laughed. “We ended up calling a taxi.”
The workshop brought together youth from across the province to discuss–and come up with possible solutions–for today’s “hot-button” issues, including toplessness, urbanization and agriculture, sex education, government cutbacks, education reform, and sexual harassment.
Hosted by the Rotary Club of Toronto, the CNE, the Ontario 4-H Council, and the Rotaract Club of Toronto, the workshop’s goals were:
oto improve mutual understanding and appreciation of different lifestyles experienced by young people;
oto provide an opportunity for participants to highlight issues they feel need to be addressed and to ensure an atmosphere of co-operation in the future;
oto allow participants formal and informal avenues of expressing and presenting their views in positive, problem-solving ways; and
oto have fun.
Participants broke into groups of about six, chose a topic they wanted to deal with, and then had three days to come up with a presentation.
“I think the small discussions . . . were best because we got to talk about issues that we feel really strongly about,” Angus said, adding it was interesting to hear different viewpoints.
“You just got to see the problems from a different perspective.”
“A couple of them there got to be a big debate,” noted LeBlanc, saying there were strong feelings on some issues.
LeBlanc was glad she and Angus were there, noting they also were the only two to attend from Northern Ontario). She felt some people living in southern Ontario weren’t aware of what life was like up here.
During one debate about doctors, she recalled a person saying some doctors were forced to go either south or to the north.
“I was kind of offended by it because it’s not that bad up here,” LeBlanc stressed, noting it was an “eye-opening” experience for all the participants.
The sharing of experiences also overflowed into the social hours. Participants mingled, always finding new people to talk to. And Angus noted there were people who became instant friends.
And she admitted there were more similarities between rural and urban youths than she first thought.
“There’s not really anything different other than we live in different areas,” she said.
While it was an educational experience, both felt it was more a personal growth thing than an academic one.
“When you come back and you reflect on your weekend . . . the experience is definitely amazing,” LeBlanc noted. “If [you] have an opportunity like this, definitely take it.”