At 16 years old, Chilliwack’s Breanne Poole may not know everything, but she is taking every opportunity to answer one of life’s most important questions: What do you want to be when you grow up?
“I used to want to be a lawyer,” said the Grade 11 student. But after being accepted into Chilliwack Secondary School’s Human Services Career Enriched Program (HSCEP), Poole says she discovered a love for working with children.
“I do a lot of work with youth through volunteering (and) I found a passion for that and know now that’s what I want to go into.”
And while she has enough secondary credits for early graduation, Poole says she wants to continue her public education so she can learn and experience as much as possible before beginning her post-secondary education.
Which is why she applied to attend the Forum for Young Canadians at the end of 2018.
Started in 1976, the Forum for Young Canadians is a non-partisan program funded by the Foundation for the Study of Processes of Government. Its purpose is to provide students between the ages of 15 and 19 the opportunity to learn about the nation’s government firsthand.
“We spend a week in Ottawa and (visit) Parliament Hill to learn how government works,” explained Poole. “We get to do simulations and listen to Senators and all that sort of stuff.”
“A friend of mine went to one of the last sessions in October. I thought it was a long shot, but I applied,” said Poole.
As part of her application process, Poole had to submit a letter explaining why she deserved to be selected. In less than a week she received an acceptance letter.
“I was actually very surprised (to learn I’d been accepted),” said Poole. “I know that I am intelligent and involved in a lot, but a lot of very intelligent (students who are) at the top of their schools apply for this.
“I’m nervous to fly to Ottawa by myself, though. I’ve never traveled solo before, but the thought of going to a conference by myself is very exciting.”
During her week in the nation’s capital, Poole will visit both the Senate and House of Commons, meet various political leaders such as Senators and Members of Parliament, participate in role-play based simulations, and possibly meet the Prime Minister, who attended two out of three events in 2016.
”Going to this conference is going to give me a better understanding of the way our country works and enable me to make better connections,” continued Poole.
“It’s important to seek to understand, to listen, and extract as much information as you can (from situations like this). Listening to other youths will help me to build better connections when I’m home (because) it’s what builds community.
“They say it takes a community to raise a child, and I am still young and long for that myself. It’s important to build trust and have integrity in our relationships every day so we can build together a place that’s more enabling so people can find the room they need to grow.
“I want to do what I can to get into politics and … (Forum for Young Canadians) will really give me a better understanding of the path I want to take to bring justice to more people.”
Hosted from March 17 to 22, the Forum for Young Canadians encourages participants to start learning about the current affairs that interest them and to reach out to local media to both promote the event and seek out sponsorship prior to the conference.
The cost of attending the event is nearly $1,000, but included in that is Poole’s airfare, accommodations, and food for the week. “If I paid for it all myself, it would be about $2,500,” said Poole, “(but) the Forum covers 57 per cent.”
“This experience is one I’m not going to have through anything else. I get to speak to ministers, meet the Senate, and so many cool things are going to happen. I think that everything I’m going to go through is going to stick with me for a very long time and I’m very excited.
“I think it’s really important that people know about this opportunity,” added Poole. “Everyone should apply for it because it’s investing in the future of Canada.”
If you would like to help sponsor Breanne Poole’s Ottawa trip for the Forum for Young Canadians, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Forum for Young Canadians, visit their website at Forum.ca.