They may not be able to vote yet, but students at Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) are hoping to get more involved in local politics.
Students Riley Evans, Sabella Senft and Faith Sutton from Anne Ostwald’s Social Justice 12 class have formed Students for Change, a group that is interested in creating a student city shadow council. The goal of the council, students told Port Alberni city council on Monday, Dec. 12, is to make Port Alberni an improved and welcoming community for everyone.
“We are the future voters and council members of our town,” said Evans, a Grade 12 student. “And although our opinions are often overlooked, they are in some ways the most important ones.”
Evans says the shadow council will meet once a week, then meet with city council once a month to discuss issues the community is facing and come up with projects and potential solutions. A new shadow council will be elected each school year.
Sutton, a Grade 11 student, explained that young people are aware of what is happening within the city and have ideas that they want to be implemented.
“The young people of today are the councillors, mayors and business owners of tomorrow,” said Sutton. “One day soon, we will be the ones to run this city, and this is a way to learn how to do that.”
Senft, also in Grade 11, said some of the things that students have talked about include issues like safety, mental health resources for youth, cleanups, vacant buildings and safe sidewalks and crosswalks.
Mayor Sharie Minions said on Monday that she is happy to see students in Port Alberni engaged in local government, and also praised Ostwald’s Social Justice 12 class for their work over the years.
“This class has a reputation for bringing forward thoughtful ideas and taking the time to develop an idea, a plan or a solution,” she said.
City CAO Tim Pley said the students will be establishing their own terms of reference so that they are in control of their own committee—instead of being governed by city processes and regulations.
“This is a student-driven initiative and we will be responsive to your needs,” he said.
Councillor Todd Patola volunteered to follow up with the students on next steps.
A student shadow council is not the same as a student council, Sutton explained after the meeting. While the current ADSS student council tackles issues involving the school, the shadow council will be more involved in things happening throughout the city.
Although it originated from a class project, Sutton said that the shadow council is something that will take place outside of class.
“We want it to continue throughout the year, and many other years,” said Sutton.
Students for Change will also be presenting their idea to School District 70 board trustees in January.
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