Junior council members Monica Rawlek (left)

Junior council members Monica Rawlek (left)

City’s junior council empowers youth

Leadership skills, confidence and making a difference.

Leadership skills, confidence and making a difference. These are some of the things youth who participated in Williams Lake’s junior council this last year said they experienced.

In fact, Grade 11 student Monica Rawlek intends to continue on the council.

“People our age might think it’s going to be scary or superficial, but we were always learning new things,” she said.

The council meets every second week after school with the city’s manager of social development Anne Burrill and city councillor Geoff Bourdon.

They also take turns attending committee of the whole (COW) meetings, where there’s a seat at the table for the youth to join in discussions, even though they cannot vote.

Monica said it was interesting to learn how council works.

Watching something go to the COW meeting table and then to regular council meetings.

Hanna Hett graduated this year so she won’t be returning to the council, however, she enjoyed serving a one-year term and felt she had a chance to make a difference.

“It also gives youth knowledge about current events in the city — things I would have never known about before,” Hanna said. “We also watched how council solves problems.”

Along with council member Gagan Vaid, who also graduated this year, Hanna co-ordinated Pay It Forward Day in Williams Lake this year.

They were responsible for planning and felt it made a difference.

“Outside of Safeway a man said, ‘there are actually nice people here,’” Hanna recalled.

Each year the new council participates in a leadership workshop with a fun trainer, followed by a tour of all the city’s facilities.

For newcomers who don’t know each other, the workshop is always a great way to get to know everyone, the youth said.

After the training the group decides projects for the upcoming year and this year was a busy one.

Aside from Pay it Forward Day, Monica attended a City’s Fit For Children conference in Surrey, council members participated in the city’s 85th birthday celebration and two members co-ordinated a volunteer fair for students at Lake City Secondary’s Williams Lake campus.

“They learn how to plan a project, bring it to city council for approval, and then implement it, Burrill said.

It was also a big year for junior council politically because a resolution the group put forward at the North Central Local Government Association urging the creation of a youth caucus was adopted and will go the Union of B.C. Municipalities in the fall.

“Junior council has actively effected change at a provincial level,” Burrill suggested.

City council has put out a call for interested youth to apply by Aug. 13, and Hanna hopes youth will step forward.

They might think it’s boring, but it’s not, she said.

“I was really surprised at how much we got to decide. I want to thank Anne for backing us up, working for us and helping us out,” she smiled.

Membership on the council is open to students Grades 10 through 12. Terms are one year with a maximum of two terms and meetings are scheduled according to what works best for the group.

Other members of the council this year were Tanner Nickel, Rebekah Corbett and Brooklyn Thiessen.