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Saturday , 28 May 2022

NDHS students encouraging others to join Minister’s Youth Council

“You get to make a difference. That is the biggest thing for me. You can make a change within the education system, which is huge, to be a student voice for that.”

Lakeland Catholic students Morgan Gillis and Darian Hazzard wouldn’t hesitate to encourage their fellow classmates apply for the Minister’s Youth Council (MYC), which is now accepting applications for the 2022/23 school year.

“The Minister’s Youth Council is a council for the Education Minister, Adriana LaGrange. They take around 40 students from across Alberta and they get hundreds of applications,” explained Gillis, a Grade 11 Notre Dame High School student.

While Gillis is ineligible to reapply because she has served the maximum two terms on the MYC, Hazzard is only on his first term and is eager to submit his application.

The Grade 10 NDHS student joined the council in order to make change, specifically in relation to the curriculum, which he described as outdated.

“I wanted to do something new about it and I wanted to be the youth voice of education,” said Hazzard.

Gillis agreed, “I really love making change within my community. I am very involved within my school, participating in different student union activities, and just being involved in my community. I wanted to make a change on a wider scale and help students across the province. I applied with the hopes of representing youth across Alberta and just being a youth voice for students who maybe are a little bit more shy or didn’t have time to be on the council.”

Making a difference Since becoming members of the MYC, Gillis and Hazzard have made impacts on Alberta’s education system in their own way.

For Hazzard, the weighting of diploma exams on students’ overall grades was overwhelming.

“You do so much work, you forget what you do throughout the year, so diploma exams are so stressful.”

Through discussions with the minister, the MYC managed to reduce the percentage value of diploma exams from the previous 30 per cent to 10 per cent.

During her first year on the MYC, Gillis and the council focused on the draft curriculum, writing a six-page letter to the minister about the changes they would like to see. Gillis was surprised when the council received a response, with the minister addressing each of their concerns.

When applying for the MYC, Gillis wanted to focus on mental health resources in schools, rural school equality, and bullying
initiatives and how to prevent it.

She has been a youth advocate through her role on the council, speaking as a host at the Alberta Health Services Mental Health Summit last year and at an Alberta Resource Networking Conference this year.

“When you can use your voice and see the changes you’ve made, it is insane. It shows the significance of what you’re doing,” Gillis said. Encouraging others to apply the ability to include your experience on the MYC on your post-secondary applications, the chance to be a voice
for Alberta youth, and the opportunities available to students who join the MYC are just a few of the reasons why students are encouraged to apply.

“You get to meet with a diverse group of students that maybe don’t have similar mindsets as you but still have that overall goal of making a difference,” expressed Gillis. “If you’re interested in participating in your school’s student union activities, well maybe you would want to expand your mindset and help students on a wider scale.” Hazzard noted by being on the council, you also get an inside look on the future of education in Alberta.

Students also make connections they may not otherwise make. For example, last year, Gillis met Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw. She has also discussed programs with Dr. George Georgiou, who is currently working with Lakeland Catholic on literacy and numeracy intervention.

“You also get to learn some valuable things. My mindset since joining the MYC has changed exponentially. Just seeing the personal growth I have had since being on the MYC, leadership and in other ways, would be enough to make me want to reapply,” Gillis said.
Becoming a member is a commitment, the pair stressed. The MYC meets three times a year with Alberta’s Minister of Education.

“It’s really important that you’re able to attend those sessions because you can gain really valuable information,” noted Gillis.

About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is an award winning journalist and is from Whitbourne Newfoundland. Green graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, River Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner and can fillet a Codfish.