A youth advisory committee comprised of various Oakville secondary school students met this morning at Abbey Park High School. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne visited with the students to deliver an important message – get involved in the community and stay involved.
Students in the Oakville Provincial Youth Advisory Committee (OPYAC), an advisory council to the Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn, convened to model what the Ontario Parliament looks and sounds like. To make the gathering even more authentic, Speaker of the House for the Ontario Legislature, Dave Levac, assisted in facilitating the event, in which students addressed a number of real-world issues including increasing the minimum wage. The goal of OPYAC is to enhance youth engagement in politics.
Prior to the committee beginning its mock Parliament, Premier Wynne addressed the students. She talked about her background as an advocate for education, from parent and school trustee to education minister and then premier. She congratulated the committee for its work in helping young people connect to important issues.
“It takes everyone getting involved," to make society better, she said.
Afterward, Wynne reiterated the instructional value that comes from the work produced by youth committees like OPYAC because students are “getting the opportunity to explore ideas."
“It's so critical that we create an environment where kids can talk about the things that matter to them and let them have their opinion," she said. “It's their job to figure out what they believe and then to lead the world."
Andrei Adams, a Grade 10 student at Abbey Park High School, is a member of the youth committee. He said this group is designed to help young people get engaged in politics to help them “become informed voters". This is important, he said, because “we're electing who will represent us."
“When I found out the Premier was coming, our whole group got super excited. It's an honour to have her come to our OPYAC event," Adams said.
Tara Connor, Principal at Abbey Park High School, said students learn so much, from organizing to participating in these kinds of OPYAC events. Leadership is a key skill learned, she noted.
“This is a student-led and student-empowered initiative," Connor said, adding that the skills students learn in the classroom get applied to a real-world experience like mock Parliament. “It's very authentic learning."