A group of students from Alberni District Secondary School had a unique chance to meet federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh on Friday, Oct. 18.
Singh was in Port Alberni to rally with Courtenay-Alberni NDP candidate Gord Johns, whose office is just down the street from the high school.
Teacher Craig Brooks walked his Grade 8 class down from Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) to take in the rally, along with Anne Ostwald’s Social Justice class. Other students attended the rally independently as well.
Brooks said he decided to bring his class to the rally because of a unit they are studying, which discusses in part whether a community is healthy. “One of the pillars of that is looking at how political debate is structured and access to your political leaders,” he said.
“With an opportunity literally half a block away from our school, to meet someone who is running for prime minister and who can shape policy for the next four years—until this group of students is old enough to vote—is super important,” he said.
For one group of students, Singh’s presence on the video sharing app TikTok, shared on Thursday, was a draw.
“I wanted folks to know where we stand,” Singh said of the video. “I believe we have to connect with people where they are,” he said, adding that he wants to engage young people and the TikTok platform is where they are.”
Shyannah Wutke, Jaymi Hocking and Amber Smith, also all in Grade 8, took selfies with Singh. “I think it shows a lot of awareness that he’s (Singh) actually doing things rather than just saying that he’ll do things,” Hocking said.
Smith said the fact Singh is visiting small towns to reach potential voters and supporters “is kind of cool.” The trio have been studying the election in their class, she added.
Wutke said she caught Singh’s video on TikTok when he posted it Thursday (Oct. 17). She said it was a good way for him to reach out to youth.
“It’s a big platform that a lot of kids are on. Maybe more kids will tell their parents,” Hocking said.
“That’s what I did,” Wutke said.
Nolan Doran and friends Bryden Granger and Hayden Burwell shot some video with Singh during the hour following the rally, when Singh took the time to speak with everyone who wanted to take a selfie, shake his hand or ask a question.
“We took some TikToks with him,” Doran said, adding that the app is a good place to share such videos. “A lot of people can talk (on TikTok).”
Granger had seen Singh’s TikTok video and shared it with Doran and Burwell.
Burwell said students took part in the election by having their own vote at ADSS. All three youth said they voted.
Singh said it was “incredible” to see all the students who showed up for the rally in Port Alberni.
“That’s something I’ve been really working hard on since I got elected. It’s been very important to me to make sure young people feel involved. Young people have so much passion, so much energy, they’re so hopeful for the future. I sometimes see that hope being replaced with despair because of climate crisis, because of a future that looks uncertain. I want to make sure they feel involved in the solutions.
“It’s a success when I see young people coming out,” he said.
“They’re not just our future, they’re our present. When they’re involved, better things happen.”