97 youth gathered in the B.C. Legislature in the final days of 2018 to take part in the 90th B.C. Youth Parliament. Submitted photo

South Okanagan students go to work at B.C. Youth Parliament

Participants return from 90th B.C. Youth Parliament

Two local students spent part of their holidays hard at work, participating in the B.C. Youth Parliament.

Summerland’s Emily Moseley, a Penticton Secondary student, was attending for the first time, and Victoria Ritchie, a Pen High grad now attending the University of Waterloo, was back for the third year.

“I’ve been doing Model United Nations for a few years When I saw this I was really excited because it wasn’t a mock parliament, what they legislate is actually real,” said Moseley. “They also combine two of my passions which is parliament and service projects.”

Ritchie said the service aspect is also key to keeping her coming back.

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“When I first started going to B.C. Youth Parliament, I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the parliamentary procedure. But as I kept with it, she realized it was a charity organization focused on service work and the idea of youth serving youth,” said Ritchie. “That’s really what kept me coming back: all the projects we put together, all the passion that I see in the legislature with all these different youth from all over the province that are really enthusiastic about getting together, coming up with solutions and going out there and doing the work.”

Moseley and Ritchie both have long histories of community service locally, including with the YES project, which is building a youth centre in downtown Penticton.

Their work with the Youth Parliament helps to support local projects, but the major project is Camp Phoenix, a yearly summer camp giving kids that usually wouldn’t be able to a chance to experience the outdoors and other camp activities.

“It’s a really great opportunity for us youth to see how we impact future generations and to really follow through on our idea of youth serving the future of youth,” said Ritchie.

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From Dec. 27 through Dec. 31, 97 youth, aged 16-21, spent 12+ hours every day at the B.C. Legislature plotting out the course of the upcoming year for the 90th B.C. Youth Parliament, debating legislation around services for youth, like Camp Phoenix.

Moseley said the youth parliament gave her the best of both worlds, “a sort of fusion of two things that I really love and I’m very passionate about.” But some of what she took away came as a surprise.

“When I went I thought kind of the parliamentary aspect would be my favourite part. But it turned out that it was actually sort of the service projects and it’s the work they do,” said Moseley. “I also got to meet some cool interesting people who work within this organization and what they do in their communities.

“I think that that was really my favourite part. I think it lived up to expectations that I didn’t know I had.”

Another pillar of the youth parliament work is a series of six regional youth parliaments planned for 2019.

“I came out of it wanting to go to as many as I possibly could.,” said Moseley. “I would like to involve people in regional youth parliament. I also really want to involve our school in getting more service projects into what we do.”

Ritchie, who is Minister for the Southern Interior, said she has a number of events planned for 2019 for the region.

“There are projects where we work together with other NGOs, or charities in our within our region as well. So we have some climate action, beach cleanups, bottle drives, and fundraisers for our projects as well,” said Ritchie “I have quite a bit planned for environmental awareness service projects because that’s that’s my field of study. So we’ll be putting together zero waste kits, talking to municipalities about the waste in our in our regions, specifically in the interior.”

Ritchie admitted there is a lot of work to do, but the returns are even greater.

“I find that the more I commit time into this, the more I get out of it, whether it’s learning more about policy, or getting better connections with local NGOs,” Ritchie said. “We’re just getting to know the passionate youth in my region. I never feel like it’s wasted time. I never feel like I’m overdoing it. I always want to do more so I get more out of it.”

The other payoff for Ritchie is understanding better how policies are created.

As a researcher, she explained, you can do all the research, you can put together documents and of information and proof, but it’s what is implemented that will bring change.

I”f I could understand the political process and the policy behind making climate action a priority, that is what I’m taking out of this, political knowledge,” said Ritchie.

Youth from ages 16 to 21 can apply to participate in the youth parliament, with applications becoming available in the early fall. More information is available at www.bcyp.org.

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