The 2019 Parksville Downtown Business Association (PDBA) youth ambassadors are back navigating downtown Parksville, offering tourists and locals a helping hand to explore the city this summer.
Ruben Mohabeer-Ortiz, 15, and his sister Leila, 18, are the first brother-sister duo to be involved in the youth ambassador program, now in its fifth year. The pair are on the streets of Parksville five days a week (Monday to Friday) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. offering advice and collecting information on tourists. At the end of summer, Leila and Ruben will compile the information into an end-of-season report for the PDBA board of directors and Parksville city council.
“We link downtown Parksville to tourists because a lot of tourists come to Parksville for mainly the beach and the nature aspect so we try to get them from the beach to come into town and explore the businesses that we have,” Leila said. “We also liaise with businesses in the business improvement area and try to get them connected and make sure that they’re all up to date in promoting exactly the way they want to.”
Both Leila and Ruben, who moved to Parksville from Toronto in 2009, are excited to interact with a diverse range of people this summer and to meet tourists from all over the world. Both speak French fluently and a bit of Spanish. Leila said she’s also been teaching herself Korean and Japanese.
“I always really enjoyed talking to different people from different walks of life,” Ruben said. “I also wanted to know a bit more about our community as a whole.”
Leila believes communicating with a wide range of people will help her prepare for her path in journalism.
“I’m going into journalism so I thought this would be a really good opportunity for me to get more comfortable and get used to talking to different people,” she said. “It’s not really interviewing but it’s definitely interacting with people from a lot of different backgrounds. It’s going to be nice to utilize our different languages and kind of be more immersed in our town then just living here watching tourists passing by.”
The 10-week youth ambassador program receives support from Canada Summer Jobs which helps fund the project, said Pamela Bottomley, PDBA executive director. She said the program is a real asset to the business community and the tourism industry.
“As my friends at tourism have characterized it in the past, it’s unlike the static visitors’ centre, the downtown ambassadors meet visitors in the wild,” Bottomley said. “We’re a mobile service but we also do an outreach to our members. A lot of the times the people out on the street or on the beach are locals and I think they like to see our local students out and about.”
Leila, who graduated from Ballenas Secondary School this year, is heading to Ottawa in September for a double major in journalism and humanities at Carleton University. Ruben will begin Grade 10 at Ballenas this fall and although he still has a few years of high school left, he’s ambitious to get into music production and study audio engineering post-grad.
“I also really enjoy teaching and talking to different people so I think that would be an interesting path as well,” he said.
If you see the two out and about in their blue shirts this summer, don’t hesitate to say ‘hi’ or ask a question.