At the 2019 State of the City Address, Mayor Brian Bowman announced he would be establishing a new Youth Advisory Council later this year, allowing the voice of Winnipeg’s youth to be better heard at City Hall.
Some of those voices were heard immediately following the address, as Mayor Bowman went to check in with The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s High School Program participants, who had been busy working on policy proposals for the mayor that would change Winnipeg for the better.
The High School Program aims to get Winnipeg’s teens vocal and involved with City Hall, and this year hosted 85 students from 15 high schools across Manitoba.
“Over the years, The Chamber’s High School Program has done a tremendous job giving opportunities to students to share their ideas and build connections within the community,” says Scott Angus, partner at HP Change, a partner of the High School Program. “This full-day session challenged students to share and build upon their big ideas for our communities. Students worked with each other and an amazing group of mentors to develop eight three-minute pitches, which they presented to Mayor Brian Bowman.”
Among the mentors for the day were Mary Agnes Welch, principal at Probe Research and former Winnipeg Free Press reporter; Rafiq Punjani, managing director of multiple Winnipeg businesses; and Dan Blair, owner and CEO of Bit Space Development Ltd. and technology entrepreneur.
“Our young people want an opportunity to contribute ideas in meaningful environments,” Angus says. “Students are motivated to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk when it comes to causes they care about. These individuals are capable of incredible things; it’s our duty to provide a platform, connections, and skill development where necessary.”
In total, eight ideas were presented to Mayor Bowman, and of those ideas, there were three prominent themes:
Larger framework of student groups:
Creation of a network of groups throughout schools in Winnipeg and Manitoba that are connected through in-person meetups posted on an online platform. The groups provide an opportunity to educate and share issues to increase activism, as well as build community across our city/province. Bringing these groups together creates a larger framework and a stronger, united voice to make an impact. These groups are also an access point for skill development and employment opportunities.
Mental health support and awareness:
Student-led event series that brings awareness to mental health issues and the people they impact. These travelling events connect youth, schools, Indigenous communities and more, through sharing and support.
More support to community bright spots:
Strengthening our communities and Indigenous peoples by providing more support to ‘bright spots’ in our province, including organizations such as Bear Clan Patrol, Mama Bear Clan, and Drag the Red.
Mayor Bowman addressed each one of the groups’ presentations, and expressed his excitement and appreciation for the passion the students had for creating better communities.
“For the most part, students crave these types of opportunities,” Angus says. “They enjoy meeting students from other schools and discussing issues they want to solve. At the end, students always ask, ‘What’s next?’ That’s how you know you’re onto something. But then it becomes our duty to keep empowering these young people to create action.
“To me, this is about sending a message to our young people. A message that says, ‘Our city is a place where we believe in you and the difference you want to make.’ And we can send that message by choosing what we do next.”