Jess is excited about spending a weekend in the Big Smoke. The Winnipeg native is among 14 young leaders aged 16 to 22 who have traveled from the Yukon, Newfoundland and Labrador, rural Alberta, Montreal, and elsewhere. They are drawn together by a common purpose—to sit on the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada National Youth Council.
In recognition of their leadership in the community, these youth have been nominated to the National Youth Council by their local Club. They will serve for an 18-month term as ambassadors and role models for youth in the Boys and Girls Clubs movement, contributing their perspectives, weighing in on issues of concern to young people in Canada, and planning activities to engage other youth.
Most of the youth are new to the group this year but some, like Jess, are returning for a second term on the Council. “People are so welcoming. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anyone,” the 21-year-old explains. “It’s a new group this year. I’ll get to know everyone, hear their ideas and plan the National Youth Forum with them.”
Planning the bi-annual National Youth Forum is one of the National Youth Council’s main responsibilities. “We all come from different places and have different ways of explaining things. We’ll hear from everyone and decide on a theme and the kinds of workshops we want. I love to be part of what happens behind the scenes, pulling it all together.”
When she was younger, Jess attended a Youth Forum, which attracts about 200 Boys and Girls Club youth. The Youth Forum is one of the reasons she wanted to be part of the National Youth Council. But it’s not the only thing.
Being a member of the Council provides young people with several opportunities to gain new skills and build confidence. “Last year, I went to Ottawa to present the results of a national youth survey. I got media training and a chance to practice something I find really difficult—public speaking. It was a brand new experience for me. Now people ask me to do that kind of thing back home and I can do that. I can be in front of a camera.”
This year, Youth Council members have split into three groups according to their interests. Some will plan the Youth Forum, others will use social media to amplify the voices of Boys and Girls Club youth, and others will work on change initiatives that impact young people in Canada. “This year I’ve been invited to join a group of young leaders that wants to change the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth. I’m super pumped about that.”