Voicing student concerns

Civics students pitch environmental, anti-homelessness and political-engagement issues to council

Aidan White and Kris Bourdon present their idea to add a high school student to city council.

Aidan White and Kris Bourdon present their idea to add a high school student to city council.

From homelessness to protecting the environment, to having a voice and having a place to play, Salmon Arm Secondary Civics 11 students presented great ideas to Salmon Arm council.

Councillors at the May 9 meeting that was held in the Sullivan campus gym welcomed the four student delegations that began with Carrie Fromme and Paige Saitz bringing council up to date on their upcoming sleep out to support Vancouver’s Covenant House.

The young women, who presented to Council last month, said each participating student is trying to raise $200 to give one homeless student a night in a safe shelter.

On a political note, Aiden White and Kris Bourdon asked councillors to consider including a Grade 12 student voice on council.

The student would get school credits and would communicate council affairs to other SAS students, which would result in more interest in community affairs at the high school level.

The upbeat pair’s presentation concluded to loud applause from the students filling the bleachers.

“We may have some questions from council, but yes, yes, yes,” said an enthusiastic Mayor Nancy Cooper, noting that she was in favour of the proposal.

“Thanks for the presentation,” added Coun. Chad Eliason, who was first elected to city council 11 years ago when he was 27, and remains the youngest person at the table. “There are only two junior councils in B.C., so what you guys are doing is cutting edge,” he said. “Youth engagement is very important. I totally encourage you and am willing to help on the side.”

Coun. Tim Lavery agreed, saying the “big takeaway” is that youth is willing to get involved if asked.

Coun. Alan Harrison made a motion that council endorse the idea of having a youth on council and having someone appointed next spring – with students and council giving unanimous approval.

“I don’t think youth is any different; we don’t engage adults unless there’s something that affects them – then they show up,” he said. “That’s why I think this is so important.”

Next up, Alec Crawford and Serena Boehme asked council to pass a “blue dot” declaration for environmental rights that has been passed by the Union of BC Municipalities and more than 130 B.C. municipalities.

Lavery, chair of the environmental advisory committee, told the students he would be prepared to put the motion forward at the next regular council meeting.

Last, but with no less enthusiasm, Ben Novakowski and Colton Mikkelsen asked council to consider construction of a new multi-purpose court in Canoe.

“Canoe Beach offers Salmon Arm youth a beach volleyball court that only provide activities for around four to 12 people at a time,” they said. “A multi-purpose court would provide healthy activities for many more people – young and old.”

Their researched presentation included material recommendations and cost estimates.

“This is very timely as we are working on our Canoe master plan right now,” enthused the mayor.

The floor was then opened to students, with a question about why the community does not celebrate the LGBT community and make people feel more welcome drawing thunderous applause.

Cooper told her there are many groups and individuals who take their proposals for parades and other activities to council, which then works with staff to accommodate requests.

“In my opinion, many of the good ideas that come to council don’t come from council, they come from people,” offered Jamieson in response.

Civics teacher Graham Gomme said he was pleased both by his students’ presentations and council’s reception.

“The council was very respectful, they didn’t treat them trivially. Their questions challenged them, but they weren’t demeaning,” he said. “I think the kids got a real dose of municipal politics.”