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Engaging youth in political process goal of new initiative

Published on

Troy Shantz

An initiative is in the works that could help high school students learn about government and democracy while completing mandatory volunteer hours.

Talks have begun involving students and representatives from local municipal government and political parties to create volunteers placements, especially during elections.

“All of the mechanics are in place,” said Bob Sutton, a volunteer for the non-partisan charity Samara Canada.

“It’s just a matter of political entities issuing the invitation to youth saying, ‘Here’s something you could help us with,” and it could be a learning experience at the same time.’”

Students from Great Lakes, St. Patrick’s and Northern Collegiate have met with representatives from Sarnia and Plympton-Wyoming as well as the major parties to determine what volunteering would look like.

In next year’s local elections, for example, students could help staff offices and booths at fairs, place election signs, make telephone calls and knock on doors, or evaluate communication strategies to better reach young people.

Sutton said many young people are interested in politics but don’t know how to get involved.

He cited a recent study that found 61% of youth engaged by political parties believe politicians play an important role, but among the unengaged the number drops to 21%.

“It’s time for us to be more inviting of youth,” he said.

“The assumption that youth aren’t interested is just a false assumption.”

Administrators at the public and Catholic school boards have already approved the concept. The next step would be for municipalities and political parties to contact the schools and outline their volunteer needs.

Every student in Ontario must complete 40 hours of community involvement to graduate.

“Every generation has to replace another… ensuring that the generation coming on has a good sense of how this thing really works,” Sutton said.

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