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Speaking Out: The power of youth voices

By  Kate Jamieson, Speaking Out
  • May 10, 2018

When I was elected student trustee for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board a year ago, I had no idea what to expect. What I have learned leaves me both grateful and hopeful.

In the role, I have worked with some of the most passionate students in our Student Senate, the Ontario Student Trustee Association and the Catholic Board Council. I see faith in action through their work on province-wide mental health initiatives and a Catholic Youth Day as part of Catholic Education week.

The students I have worked with have taught me so much and it makes me so hopeful for the future. But we also couldn’t have done it without the adults who mentored us and inspired us to take action. 

As a student trustee, I attend board meetings and share the student voice with the trustees, superintendents and the director of education for our board. Any worry that I had about the role or being able to adjust to my responsibilities on the board were wiped away when I met the people who embody the term servant leader. 

It was never more apparent that when I attended the Institute of Catholic Education’s symposium in November. I participated in discussions about the future of Catholic education. To be able to discuss my faith so openly to a room full of adults was so enlightening and I felt listened to. 

Every idea I shared was greeted with open minds. When I spoke, everyone was quiet. These simple actions encouraged me to continue to share my thoughts and opinions throughout the symposium and beyond.

Being a student trustee provided me with the opportunity to interact with my municipal government. In the last city election, however, only one in three people voted and young people were underrepresented.

As Catholics, we should feel compelled to vote and help elect politicians who advocate for the dignity and rights of all. Servant leadership is important to our Catholic faith. I look to Catholic leaders like Pope Francis and Mother Teresa as role models of compassion and care. 

By engaging in politics, I feel I can mirror a small piece of that. Political involvement not only allows me to have a say in the policies that affect my community, but it also allows me to connect to the people and understand their needs. Through this, I can be a better servant leader to my neighbours, school mates and fellow community members.

As young people, we need to realize the power of our voices. My role as student trustee has taught me this. If we speak, people will listen. People care about what we have to say. 

It is my hope that youth everywhere realize this. It will be our voices that matter when it’s our futures being decided by politicians.

(Jamieson, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Monsignor Doyle Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge, Ont.)

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