Jada Drake quickly scribbled down notes as Squamish business owners filled her in on their needs and wants.
Tuesday (May 22) was a busy morning for Drake. The Garibaldi Highlands Elementary School student won the District of Squamish's Mayor for a Day competition. She met with Mayor Rob Kirkham, attended a goodbye tea as the municipality's chief administrative officer Kevin Ramsay set off for his new job in Port Moody and spoke with downtown merchants.
At 1 p.m., Drake joined four students from Howe Sound Secondary School's leadership program to partake in the council's Committee of the Whole meeting. Their participation marked the start to the Local Government Awareness Week and a push by the district to get the community involved in its processes.
“I just moved to Squamish a year and a half ago,” said Emily Wiesenthal, a Grade 10 Howe Sound Secondary student. “I wanted to learn more about the community.”
Squamish youth are more active in community programs and initiatives than in her old hometown of Gimli, Man., Wiesenthal said. But all the honourary councillors agreed there's work to be done.
“I don't think people realize how much [municipal politics] affects you,” Grade 11 student Teal Imbeau said.
Teenagers need to become aware of the outlets to talk about local issues and provide input, Wiesenthal said. Fellow Grade 11 student Yufei Wang said youth don't receive enough education on how to become politically involved. Grade 11 student Stephanie Pawluk's mother works for the district. She said it seems interest starts at home, as teenagers who come from families that talk about what's in the news are excited to get involved.
All four leadership pupils said they felt a sense of responsibility in understanding local politics and what residents can do to help guide Squamish's future. Squamish youth are a big part of tomorrow and have ideas on where they would like to see the community headed, they agreed.
“We do have something to say. We are just not often asked,” Wiesenthal noted.
The students reviewed the municipality's Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Acting Mayor Ted Prior asked that the pupils be included in further district emails regarding the draft report.
“Thank you, you people, for having an interest in our town,” Prior said.