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Youth conference achieves the impossible

Even with a big-name artist like Sam Roberts, registration for Bringing Youth Toward Equality’s 10th-anniversary youth conference is a little…

Even with a big-name artist like Sam Roberts, registration for Bringing Youth Toward Equality’s 10th-anniversary youth conference is a little low.

The conference, which runs from January 18 to 20, has a capacity for 300 kids from across the North.

So far, only 60 have signed up — mostly from outside of Whitehorse.

“Our registration packages didn’t really get put out until just before Christmas break,” said BYTE conference co-ordinator Ashley Camara.

“So we’re being really aggressive about registration right now.”

With the conference only a week away, the whole BYTE team is working overtime to get youth to register.

On Saturday afternoon, Camara and four others were at the BYTE office designing posters and working out last minute details.

“Everyone that’s here today is volunteering, even me, I’m not getting paid today,” said Camara.

The conference will open on Friday with workshops, an open mike and six groups competing in a battle of the bands.

The winner will get to open at the concert the following evening, as well as scoring a spot at Frostbite and Rendezvous.

The next day will be packed with over 20 workshops.

“We’re trying to empower youth and show them that they can change the world,” said Camara.

“The workshops let them work on their skills and learn new ones to fulfill their potential.”

The workshops will be taught by people “as young as possible” and are extremely varied.

One class is called Viva La Revolucion and will teach participants to bring about social change through activism.

There is a workshop that teaches youth their legal rights, and another on sexual education and relationships.

Other classes are slightly less serious — although no less important — with workshops on musical jam sessions, DJ-ing, and break dancing.

The main event however, is the concert on Saturday night with Sam Roberts.

When asked how BYTE was able to get Roberts to play at their conference, Camara answered by quoting Pearl S. Buck.

“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible and achieve it, generation after generation.”

Setting their sights impossibly high, BYTE contacted Roberts’ manager to find out how they could get him on board.

The band was in the middle of recording its latest album, so chances didn’t look good. But BYTE was told to send an invitation anyway.

“We knew we had to make it stand out if we were going to have any chance,” said Camara.

The group wrote the invitation together and explained what their organization stood for and why they wanted Roberts to play.

Unable to pay the normal fee, they offered to barter for his services with promises of northern lights and dog sledding trips.

The invitation was printed out and then cut up. The pieces of paper were handed to Yukon youth who posed with them in photos.

The reply was not long coming.

Roberts wrote personally to thank them for the invitation, which he said was one of the most creative he had ever received.

He said he’d try to attend.

The band confirmed in mid-December.

“We still can’t believe that they’re coming,” said Camara.

“They’re not on tour right now, so it’s a pretty big deal for them to fly all the way out here for one show.”

The conference costs $75 and includes entrance to the concerts, workshops and a lunch on Saturday.

Tickets for the public to see Roberts are sold out. But BYTE is holding tickets for conference participants and may be selling extras the day of the concert.

Don’t get your hopes up though; Saturday’s volunteers were working hard to ensure that every one of those tickets will go to youth attending the conference.

And they’ve already proved that they’re capable of the impossible.

“Welcome to BYTE,” said Camara.

“Understaffed, crazy non-profit trying to change the world.”