On Friday morning, over 100 youth gathered at Counterpoint Church in Brantford to learn about being a leader at the 3rd Annual Brantford Youth Leadership Conference.
Organized by NDP federal candidate Marc Laferriere and the Brantford Youth NDP (yNDP), the event strived to create a free, non-partisan environment for youth to learn about political power at any age.
The community support for the event has been growing over the past three years, especially from the local schools.
“We invited anyone ages 13-22 to come hear these leaders tell their stories,” said Laferriere. “And we were so excited when BCI sent two full classes and Assumption sent one.”
Matt Csordas, a student from Brantford Collegiate Institute, said, “I came because teachers presented us with the opportunity. I wasn’t really expecting anything, but it was great. Hearing all the stories from the speakers today really inspired me.”
Rathika Sitsabaiesan, MP for Scarborough–Rouge River and the first Tamil politician in Canada, spoke with students about her experiences entering politics at a very young age.
Her message to young students wishing to go into politics was simple: “Go ahead.”
Brantford youth left the event motivated and excited about being able to make a difference, regardless of their age.
The event also included Bill Johnson, a motivational speaker; Leigh Bursey, Brockville city councillor; and Gary Newman, director of the Canadian Training Institute: Breaking the Cycle program.
It also included a visit from Brant MPP Dave Levac to present the yNDP with a certificate commemorating their hard work putting together the event.
Laferriere said that this year was a great success and that the organizational committee and speakers were so pleased to see so many students with a desire to become leaders.
“We started this event in 2010 and saw less than 30 students,” said Laferriere. “This year, we have over 100 students from all over Brantford.”
Laferriere is glad to see so much growth in participation in the event because of what he calls the ‘decade of decline.’
“There are so many barriers for youth to get over today and, ironically, the people trying to fix the problem for them are people who never experienced those barriers. I want this conference to become something that youth remember being at and that it was their jumping point to becoming a leader of change.”
The yNDP and Laferriere are hoping to continue this free event for years to come, maintaining its message of political power at any age.