Over the past couple weeks I’ve been rockin’ three mantras: Speak your mind. Know your heart. Make new friends.
Why? Well, my friends, those are the mission statements of an organization very near and dear to my heart. An organization that I am now more heavily involved in than ever before…
“What is OYP?”
Ontario Youth Parliament is an organization that brings together youth ages 14-21 from across the province to build friendships, debate current issues and explore and reflect on their feelings and spirituality. For those who’ve ever attended, we like to use a lot of metaphors, because the experience is truly indescribable. It has been compared to spinning teacups at Disneyland and park swings from your childhood. The perfect cup of coffee. Your favourite book. Acing a test. The warmest hug. Over the model-parliament weekend, we debate legislation in a non-partisan safe space to encourage young people to raise their voices on the issues that matter most to them. If a bill is passed, we forward it to related government officials (MPs, MPPs, town Councillors, etc.) so that they can have some perspective on the changes that young Ontarians want to see. We’ve covered topics like mental health, electronic waste, tax education, OSAP and Senate reform, and government recognition of those outside the gender binary.
When you have 150 teenagers together, some major bonding has to happen. This unfolds during 2 dances, a banquet, a talent show, spirit games, secret friends, cheers, and more. We also encourage compassionate global citizenship with our “Love Fund”. We sponsor two charities for which we raise money with a silent and live auction, sponsored love notes and gifts as well as “punishment donations” when someone breaks a rule of the House. At the end of the day, we wind down with reflective vespers…A.K.A. “ALL THE FEELS”. Whether you allot this time to spiritual reflection, meditating on your emotions or building deeper friendships, this is a great time to relax and take in the craziness of the day.
“So what is your role, Kier?”
I’ve attended OYP three times, twice a Cabinet Minister having worked year-round to plan an awesome Parliament session with a stellar team. At the end of the weekend, we have elections to determine the Executive – the 5 people who select and lead the entire Cabinet. After a lot of thought about my priorities and dedication to the organization, I decided to run for Premier – the leader of the Executive team. NOPE, NOT INTIMIDATING AT ALL. After the pre-election jitters, midnight speech writing, and an emotional roller coaster, I found myself elected. It was the most exhilarating, terrifying, empowering experience to hear my name announced after having run with some of my closest friends.
Over the next year, it’s not guaranteed to be all fun and games. It’s going to be insanely hard work. I’ll being attending board and Senate meetings, choosing a Cabinet with my incredible Executive team, networking and building relationships province-wide. I’ll get an insane amount of e-mails. I will crunch numbers and brainstorm and sign umpteen amounts of forms. There will also be lots of laughs and tears and hugs and dancing. This work is beyond worth it…If I can give back even HALF of what this organization has given me, I’ll be proud of myself.
OYP gave me the confidence to speak up for myself and others.
It inspired me to pursue politics so the concerns of oppressed people are raised in our democratic system.
OYP allowed me to be unapologetically and authentically myself with a group of total strangers.
OYP prompted me to create a support network and a family with those total strangers.
It encouraged me to be generous with my time, talents, feelings, and funds.
It’s going to take some time to adjust to my role as “Madam Premier”, but I feel so compelled and inspired to lead a group of people who changed my life, so that we can continue to inspire, encourage, and support the next generation of active, passionate leaders. I’m so goshdarn excited.
– Madam Premier (K)