The Lord Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council is looking for new members, says this year’s chair, Janvi Ganatra.
The 17-year-old, Grade 12 A.N. Myer Secondary School student from Glendale has been a member from its formation in 2017, when she was in her first year of high school, and has taken over from previous chair Bethany Poltl, who is now in university.
When Ganatra first heard about the council, she thought it sounded like an interesting opportunity, so she joined, she says. She’s glad she did. “I’d heard about youth councils in other cities, and I was excited our town had one.”
At the moment, it’s down to just two members returning from last year, she says, herself and a Crossroads Public School student.
The committee welcomes youth from NOTL from public school to high school, ages 13 to 18, and Ganatra is hoping to build the membership to at least six or eight, or possibly more. “The more the merrier,” she adds.
She’s excited at the thought that there will be “new members, new ideas, new creativity and innovation. I’m looking forward to a really good year with a new committee.”
She’s been brainstorming ideas, guided by the knowledge that during the pandemic, meetings and events will likely be virtual, but that could turn out to be a benefit, she says, finding it more convenient to meet virtually, taking less time out of busy schedules and school work for teens if they can just sit down at their computer for a meeting. Events can be tailored to be held online. “We’ll be looking for new things we can do virtually if COVID continues.”
She’d like to see a virtual youth forum, to give the young people in the community a chance to talk about what they would like the council to do for them.
She’s proud of the many accomplishments of the council, including the Mental Health and Wellness Conference for Grade 8 students from all NOTL schools, which had to be held as a virtual series of speakers earlier this year, once COVID shut down schools.
Helping to bring a Pathstone Mental Health walk-in clinic to town was also an important step for helping young people, she says.
Ganatra says being a member of the advisory council is a valuable experience, teaches important skills, such as leadership, and encourages community involvement. It helps build volunteer hours, necessary to graduate from high school, and of course it looks good on a resume, she adds.
“It shows your involvement in your community, and it’s a good way to have your voice heard. It’s a great opportunity.”
When Poltl, the chair of the council for its first four years, approached the town council to ask about forming a youth advisory council, her vision was to unite local youth, to provide a voice for them, and to create partnerships to help young people become more involved in the community, she says. She feels the LMYAC is achieving that goal.
“I had a fantastically motivated group of young people join me, my friends, all ambitious and looking to make change. Change is made slowly, however we did see some of our ideas come to light.”
A graduate of Laura Secord Secondary School now attending the University of Waterloo, Poltl lists council accomplishments she’s most proud of: the Holiday Celebration at Christmas, recognizing local youth talent, an event that evolved with new members and new ideas; hosting one of the only Youth Mental Health and Wellness Conferences, with experts leading workshops; and Youth Leadership workshops, teaching leadership strategies and skills necessary for the next stages of life for youth.
Due to COVID, “we had environment initiatives which had to be put on hold, but hopefully come next spring we can re-establish those.”
As new members joined over the four years, the council began to evolve as well, she says.
“I would encourage all of our NOTL youth to get involved,” she adds, offering to mentor new members.
“You might be on sports teams and in other clubs. I would say get involved with our LMYAC and be a representative for the youth on your teams, clubs and activities you are already involved in. If you want to make a difference, have your voice heard, put in an application. I know young people sometimes doubt that what they have to say will be of value. I will tell you that it is. Each of us has something to contribute.” Her motto, she says, is, “Together we achieve great things.”
For those considering attending university in the future, she adds, “I can tell you a side benefit of being so active in your community is the awards and scholarships. Universities are looking for you to be well-rounded and involved, in your school and in your community. So be a part of our LMYAC. Express your ideas and your thoughts, and as a group we can see things happen for youth in our beautiful and supportive town, one I am proud to call my home town.”
To apply, go to the Join the Conversation page on the Town’s website at https://www.jointheconversationnotl.org/
The deadline is Oct. 30.