When Janvi Ganatra put out a call for new members to the Lord Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council last fall, she was hoping to hear from at least six to eight Niagara-on-the-Lake students from public school to high school.
She is delighted to have built the membership to 15 young people from the community, the largest council since the committee began meeting in 2017, all anxious to be a voice for the youth of NOTL.
The Grade 12 A.N. Meyer student from Glendale has been a member from its formation, when she was in her first year of high school, and took over from previous chair Bethany Poltl, who is now in university. At the beginning of this school year, there were just two returning members, Ganatra and a Crossroads Public School student.
They also have three advisors on the committee, town community engagement coordinator Lauren Kruitbosch, local business woman Maria Mavridis and Coun. Clare Cameron.
The committee welcomes youth from NOTL from public school to high school, ages 13 to 18.
She’s grateful for the new members, and the new ideas they bring with them to the new committee.
They have had to meet virtually, and have been brainstorming ideas about how to reach teens virtually, and how to pivot events held in past years to formats that can be held online.
The council met once in November and December, and in the new year, plan to meet every other week, she says.
Their virtual meetings came together pretty easily, with students already adapting to online classes.
They’ve divided the group into three subcommittees, including outreach, advocacy and mental wellness, following on a decision made last year, with five members on each.
Mental wellness includes physical and mental health issues; advocacy refers to local issues, including social engagement; and outreach focuses on social media and events for the enjoyment of the youth community.
“We’re trying to come up with things we can do visually, such as a games night on Zoom,” says Ganatra. “We’re still looking into how we can do that as a way to get together.”
Although it poses some problems to overcome, “we think we can still make an impact on youth in town,” she says.
One of the past accomplishments of the council, the Mental Health and Wellness Conference for Grade 8 students from all NOTL schools, was held as a virtual series of speakers earlier this year, once COVID shut down schools. For 2021, says Ganatra, the council is hoping to hold a virtual meeting, with breakout rooms on specific subjects, which is closer to the format of the meetings held in the community centre in 2017 and 2018.
“In January, we’ll be doing more brainstorming for new ideas,” she says.
The group has been getting “great support from the Town,” and from the Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club, which wants to be more involved with youth in the future.
“The Rotary Club is partnering with us again this year,” says Ganatra. “They have offered assistance in funding, and adult mentors for our wellness subcommittee. And we are also looking into an opportunity of making an Interact Group with LMYAC through the Rotary Club.”