Report written by Sammy Roach
On May 11, 2017, the 2016-2017 London Youth Advisory Council held a meeting to share their memories, thoughts, and hopes as they near the end of their terms. Advocacy Director Emma Blue asked the group questions to draw out reflections on the previous year, and where the councillors want to go forward following their term.
Who Should Read This?
- Anyone interested in the outcome of the LYAC program
- Anyone who wants to keep up with what the current council wishes to do moving forward
What did you most enjoy about LYAC? Was it a person? A project? A conversation?
- Melissa and Emma shared their thoughts on the discounted student bus pass project Hassan and Moeez worked on as a particularly exciting project in the year that brought the issue much needed attention and conversation.
- Maia shared a time earlier in the year when she went with Olivia to the Sunday Assembly. There were so many questions on student buspasses and the audience was receptive. Maia explained that she usually hates networking, but this didn’t feel like networking in the traditional sense- it was a refreshing conversation. Melissa asked if Maia would go back to the Sunday assembly. Unfortunately, Maia said the assembly was too far for her to get to, but if she had better access, she would go.
- Grace had several memories to share. She said that she had a particularly deep memory of the LYAC training day where she had lots of fun and made friends. She also enjoyed her councilor-led meeting, and was happy to share issues that are important to her. She said that really enjoys people sharing their dreams, and that she likes the feeling of being taken seriously. She added that she sees LYAC as a politics class or school, and now she is graduating from class to carry forward what she has learned, and carry her connections forward to accomplish things.
- Raghad said that she didn’t go out much before LYAC. Now she goes out to meetings and events, and over the course of the year she has gotten to meet and know people, and she has enjoyed that she could just meet someone and talk to them. Raghad was re-elected for the 2017-2018 year, and she said that in her next she wants to build a greater network in her community.
- Hassan said that for him, everything stands out. He loved the educational meetings and getting meeting a lot of people, and having conversations with strangers that opened his eyes. Hassan shared his love for talking with people and learning about them.
- Dana said it was hard to pick one thing about the year. One important part of the year for her was meeting with Madeline to work on issues surrounding youth homelessness. They haven’t been able to meet in a while, but Dana is still full of ideas and wanting to move forward.
How you would do things that you want to do?
A silence followed Emma’s next question as the councilors contemplated their goals reaching the end of their terms.
- Raghad noted that one challenge for her is meeting people in her community, as she feels like she has not gotten the hang of reaching out to people. There was one community person in particular that she wanted to meet with, Leroy Hibbert, but she wondered how to best reach out to meet with him. She said that she wanted to email, but put it off because it felt strange and she wasn’t sure how far it would actually go. Raghad asked Emma: Is it rude to ask someone of their time?
- Emma replied that Raghad might be doing the people she wants to speak to a disservice by not giving them the choice of meeting with her. Her time (and the time of any person) is valuable.
- Grace added that carrying forward conversation is tricky once they don’t have the title/organization that comes with being an youth councilor to make connections and expressed her own desire to reach out to Olivia Chow after being inspired by reading her book. Grace also offered some feedback for Emma and Melissa, wondering if there are ways to better motivate councilors to put together focus groups and projects, and she expressed disappointment in councilors that don’t show up to meetings.
- Emma replied that these are questions the staff continue to ask of themselves: How do we give people support but also hold them accountable? Emma noted that in terms of continued access to LYAC resources, the staff are more willing to help if councilors have put in the effort to stay connected.
- Hassan shared that he had an idea for the next year, but that he wasn’t sure if it could become a reality. He wants to start a get together for people to discuss their problems. He expressed a frustration with high school assemblies that didn’t seem to offer very much help to people struggling with mental health, as well as the tendency for students failing to come to class to get kicked out when there may be a deeper issue. He wants to create space for people to just get to talk about their lives, but he’s not sure what shape the project will take.
- Emma encouraged Hassan to ask people in his community what they need/what they are looking for in something like a conversation circle, and to get friends together to bounce some ideas around. She also encouraged him to connect with existing community organizations for any insights or tools they may be able to offer.
Hopes from the LYAC Staff
As the meeting was closing, Grace asked Emma: What do you want us (the outgoing councilors) to make? Emma replied that she wants people finishing their terms at the LYAC to feel happy, fulfilled, and to go forward and talk to people – especially those who don’t get an opportunity to talk, creating a platform for marginalized voices to speak. The meeting ended with wishes from the staff at the LYAC for the outgoing councilors to stay in touch as they move on to new projects.
I was really struck by a couple of different points in the conversation. One, when Grace said that it felt good to be taken seriously while she was at the LYAC. The second was when Raghad asked Emma if it was rude to ask someone of their time, with Emma replying that Raghad’s time is just as valuable as anybody’s. For me these two moments speak to what is so important about the LYAC and similar organizations. Youth have a voice that must be respected and taken seriously. It is endlessly frustrating time and time again to see youth perspectives on important issues discarded because the voices expressing them are “not old enough” or “don’t pay enough taxes.”
As I reach the end of my time volunteering with the LYAC, I’ve witnessed three years worth of incredible youth councilors share some fascinating insights and invaluable conversation. I’m confident the LYAC will continue to evolve in the organic way that it does to continue amplifying youth voices. As those standout points in the meeting illustrated, it’s a vital practice for affirming the importance of those voices not just to the naysayers, but also to the youth themselves.