Involvement opens up a world of opportunity for students
January 7, 2016
Getting involved in local not-for-profit organizations can open a world of opportunity. Take it from King’s student Kayley MacGregor, who is active on campus as a Tour Guide,and with the King’s Academic Mentoring Program KAMP, and in the local community with the London Youth Advisory Council (LYAC). The third year Honors Specialization Social Justice and Peace Studies student discusses the benefits of getting involved in the community, as she highlights the work she does for LYAC, and what doors have been opened for her through active community participation.
What is LYAC, and what does the organization do?
“The London Youth Advisory Council is a youth government that consists of 15 councillors who are between the ages of 15-25, who are democratically elected by people in London who are 10 years of age or older. The councillors represent the 14 wards of London, and last year we piloted a program that added a 15th councillor who represents Western specifically. The councillors are supported by a small team of staff and volunteers, and a board of directors. It's a youth led and run organization (even the staff are under the age of 30), that seeks to amplify youth opinions to the decision makers in our formal government and institutions. Councillors learn political skills by being politicians who run campaigns and serve as representatives of their youth constituents. The councillors attend weekly meetings to discuss topics ranging from anything from transit, to drug stigma and basic minimum income. In addition to the meetings, they host focus groups with young people in the London community, and work on projects that can be anything from policy papers to community events.”
How did you hear about, and get involved with LYAC?
“A friend of mine, Amir Farahi, was a councillor with the LYAC, and I heard a bit about it through him. Funnily enough, I also met one of the staff at the LYAC, Adam Fearnall, while I was at French immersion school in Nova Scotia. Through the two of them, I started following their social media, and a few months later they had a callout for social media volunteers. After some encouragement from my friends, I applied for the position, and I started as a volunteer.”
What opportunities have you have experienced working at LYAC? Are there any opportunities for students to get involved in this organization, and what are the opportunities that candidates will be exposed to?
“For me, the opportunities have been incredible. Being the Council Director at a non-profit, and being 20, has opened doors I never even knew existed. I've had the opportunity to meet and work with city councillors, city administrators, MPs, MPPs, non-profit organization leaders and university student councillors. The more intangible opportunity with that is that I think there is this idea that as young people we need to "wait our turn" to do amazing things in the community. Seeing that young people within the LYAC and in the London communities are already doing amazing things challenges that notion, and encourages others to do the same.”
“The Western representative is a member of the LYAC council, and is elected to represent the interests of Western students specifically. The candidates are on the USC ballots when Western and affiliates vote for their various student positions. The nomination period is the same as the USC, from January 4th-22nd. The application is posted at www.lyac.ca. All Western and affiliate students under the age of 25 are eligible to run, and we provide campaign training and support to candidates.”
What advice do you have for anyone interested in applying?
“My advice is to not self-eliminate themselves as a candidate if they don't have experience in campaigning, or if they feel like they don't know enough about policy or local government. Many of our councillors had no prior experience with campaigning, and found it to be a really valuable and fun experience. If anyone is considering it and wants to know more, I'm always happy to answer questions at email@example.com."
LYAC has helped to enhance MacGregor’s academic experiences, building her network of professional connections. MacGregor’s involvement with external and academic opportunities led her, and classmate Kayla LeBlanc, to travel to Vancouver in October 2015 for a workshop and conference. While attending the events hosted by Simon Fraser University, the pair led in a workshop on civic engagement, and attended a conference on civic building; starting a conversation on the role post-secondary institutions have in city building. To see what opportunities are available through LYAC, please visit the LYAC Opportunities page.