I remember fondly my time at Stelly’s Secondary. So I was full of pride when I introduced a group of Stingers in the legislature last month. The school, the teachers and administration played a critical role in a difficult part of my youth. I gave every reason to simply throw me out, but they never did.
Youth participation in governance
Politicians talk about youth outreach. But for the most part we fail to connect. I spent the day at Stelly’s with four blocks of grade 10, 11 and 12 students. The first half of the day went much like the several town hall meetings, 30 or so minutes of me talking at the audience, 45 minutes answering questions from those still awake.
Credit to those who kept their eyes open. The questions were direct, informed and critical. Over the lunch break, I sat with Kim, Jen and Catherine, the counsellors and teachers who planned the day. We discussed ways to better connect with the students, and to increase participation.
So we changed it up. In the afternoon sessions I scrapped the speechy bit. The students broke into small groups and brainstormed a few topics of interest. We spent the rest of the time discussing then. They talked, I listened.
We refined and fine-tuned as went. As a result, we created a space for the youth in Saanich North and the Islands to share, inform and offer solutions.
The listening process in the afternoon, uncovered the frustration about the transit network. The international students offered their experience from their home country and how we can make our transportation system better. In addition, they had sharp criticism of the text books they work from. Some noted that they were outdated and missing pages. Others want topics that interest them.
We need to create more openings for youth to participate in government. One noteworthy example is the effort of one Stelly’s student who has proposed a Youth Council to Premier John Horgan. Also, Thursday was just the first day I will spend in our local schools listening. Thanks to Kim, Jen and Catherine, we will better hear what they are saying. Thank you to the students for courageously sharing.