Will Brisbin has learned a lot about adversity and being resilient over the past year and a half.
The 16-year-old actor from Sherwood Park, Alta., was forced to give up some in-person acting and live red carpet events due to the pandemic.
Brisbin landed the voice of Ryder, a young boy who leads a pack of heroic pups in the animated PAW Patrol movie. The film is set to be released in theatres in August 2021.
“I was supposed to go to Toronto and record. I had to record remotely from Edmonton which was still a great time,” said Brisbin. “It just wasn’t the full experience.”
Brisbin did take part in two drama productions at his high school after the winter break, but for a chunk of the school year he trudged through online learning. Like every other high school student in Alberta, he spent countless hours at home away from friends.
“That was probably the most stressful part because I hated being online,” said Brisbin, “and it just wasn’t fun for me to wake up and do the same thing every day.”
“We have not been the decision makers, yet we’re affected by the decisions,” said Brisbin in the video.
“We sanitized, distanced and masked up. We Zoomed and Googled, packed up and unpacked again.”
Sherri-Dawn Annett, senior communications advisor with Strathcona County, said the tribute to youth started with a “caged-in” feeling which represented all the restrictions teens and youth faced during the pandemic.
As the video plays on, youth start to get back to their pre-COVID life, playing sports and meeting with friends. After more than 15 months of isolating and quarantining and worrying about keeping everyone safe, Brisbin notes it’s important to remember what used to make them laugh.
“Maybe it’s time to turn our attention back on to ourselves.”
After watching and waiting, Annett said it’s important youth get back to rediscovering freedoms. The county website lists places youth can bike and skateboard, and other free summer activities.
“We wanted to encourage a pause to recognize all this generation gave up over the past two years of school; while celebrating their tenacity, outlook and hope as we move forward,” said Annett.
There is one line in particular in the video that hit home for Brisbin’s mom, Lisa. When her son said: “We are not the same as we were before. We are two years older.”
“It kind of choked me up, thinking yeah, “said Brisbin’s mom, “two years of their youth.
”We put our youth in this position,” she added. “We kind of made them step up and be resilient and made them kind of grow up, maybe faster than we would have wanted them to.”
Dr. Carolyn FitzGerald, an assistant professor in the faculty of education at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the past 15 months shouldn’t be viewed as lost time.
She said teens will look to parents and teachers and it’s important to balance how that time period is framed.
“I don’t agree with the idea that it’s a lost two years. It’s been a very different couple of years, absolutely, but there’s lots of things that have happened in the last year and a half that haven’t been possible,” said FitzGerald.
She pointed to more quality time with siblings and parents and reduced negative influences in schools, along with peer pressure.
Perhaps one of the most positive potentials to come out of the pandemic, said FitzGerald, is the building blocks of adversity and resiliency.
“You can’t develop resiliency unless you face challenges, right?
“If your life is smooth and easy and you never have any bumps in the road or obstacles, then you don’t get a chance to build resilience,” noted FitzGerald, “and that’s a problem because that’s a really important life skill, especially because once we build some resilience we can use that quality to help us meet future challenges.”
FitzGerald stressed it’s important for teens to have support when facing those challenges. A positive adult role model can go a long way.
“It doesn’t have to be a parent. It could be a teacher, an uncle and aunt.
“Other people really sink under that weight of adversity, so it’s important for us as parents and educators to really think about and understand, why is it that some youth do well when faced with a challenge and others really struggle?”
She suggested adults talk to teens about what they learned and what they enjoyed during the pandemic. Maybe, said FitzGerald, it was getting more sleep — something to continue in the new school year.
Brisbin said his pandemic experience wasn’t all bad. He gained quality time with his parents and young sister, Sadie, 14, and brother Fitch, 9.
“I got to spend a lot of time with my family, so I got to do a lot of quality family activities,” Brisbin said.
He called it the “light” in the pandemic and said the word resilience was fitting for every teen around the globe.
“To be where we are now, it shows how much we’ve grown and we’ve matured.”
The Strathcona County tribute video ends with a final word from Brisbin.
“We did it. I’m proud of us.”