What is the world of a politician through the eyes of a young soul? Better yet, what real-world issues can a youth see and experience, perhaps even solve?
These are the questions Edward Milne Community School’s youth parliament program inspires students to both inquire and answer, as they fill the mock-up shoes of Canadian politicians.
To take part, a student needs motivation, love, and curiosity of the political world, a trait found in students like Makayla Scharf, who is in her second year with the program.
Scharf always possessed a taste for politics.
“I’ve always been good at arguing, and I’ve always cared about my community so it seemed like when the two come together, you end up with politics,” she said.
Scharf started with Forum For Young Canadians, a political training camp where students travel to Ottawa for a week, where they visit Parliament Hill and meet members of Parliament as well as the Senate.
“You live your life as if you were running a campaign, and back at the hotel, you have mock parliaments, it’s like a base-work for getting interested in politics,” Scharf said, adding this was her first intense experience with politics.
At 16, she became eligible for the B.C. Youth Parliament program; before getting together, she had to write a personal statement of why she wanted involvement, as well as provide a background of her school along with several references.
Students can then get elected as one of the 95 members of the house, as they actually sit in the B.C. legislature in Victoria.
“We are there for five days, where we debate legislation as if we were actual members of Parliament,” she said.
“We bring up members’ resolutions, which allows us to bring issues we feel are imperative to Canadian youth to the forefront so that they can be debated among the 95 peers from all across B.C.”
Sounds hard, but then again, it won’t feel genuine if the experience isn’t close to the real deal. They even get to pass a motion in the house as they would in parliament, and then that gets written up and sent off to the ministers that it would affect if it were the real deal, Scharf explained.
The program still pays off on both ends, leaving students to experience government, politics on both a provincial and federal level.
It did pay off. Through her work with youth parliament, Scharf scored $2,800 in scholarships, which go into effect when she graduates from EMCS this year.
“We’re very proud of her,” said Linda Cossentine, social studies teacher at EMCS and a spearhead in the program’s overall success. She’s the proverbial bridge that connects students and their political passions to the program.
“We look for those who would like to get politically involved and are strong, determined individuals,” she said, adding that participants need to show genuine interest in politics to both learn and enjoy the experience.
For Scharf, it’s worked out well so far, going in pursuit of an English major and a minor in theatre and performing arts at the University of Victoria, followed by law school.
In the short-term, though, she plans to stay with BCYP until she’s 21, and join the executive, depending on “how life rolls.”