Time is flying, and we are already done with our second module of the 2022 LEVEL Youth Policy Program. This module was action packed, so let’s dive into what we’ve been up to in March!
We began our second module learning from Raj Sihota, who brings more than 20 years of experience as a senior advisor to leaders, legislators, political parties, and campaigns. Raj shared how to navigate policy, key communication tactics, and how to diversify policy work. Raj inspired participants to begin thinking about how to move forward with elected officials and start the process of advocating for an issue they’re interested in.
Paul Taylor and Kevin Huang spoke with participants about food security, creating consistent food access and strengthening community capacity for a more equitable future.
Paul Taylor, who is an anti-poverty activist, shared his own experiences surrounding food insecurity and how it led him to become Executive Director of Food Share Toronto. Paul believes that charity is not a solution to food insecurity, and that people deserve food, not the leftover scraps often allocated for low-income folks experiencing food insecurity.
Kevin Huang is the co-founder of the hua foundation, which focuses on strengthening the capacity among Asian diasporic youth; in solidarity with other communities, to create systems for a more equitable and just future. Kevin focuses his work on advancing municipal policies to create equity and inclusion, and providing support for youth from ethnocultural communities to reclaim their cultural identity on their own terms.
On day 3, emcee Savannah Wells hosted the Indigenous Women Leading Change discussion, where participants heard from an all women, inter-generational panel from various Indigeneity to Turtle Island who have been leading in policy and advocacy work.
Our panel included Elder Yvonne Rigsby Jones, Kory Wilson, and Christina Gray. The discussion invited conversation surrounding dismantling colonial systems, the importance of network building, wealth redistribution, and holding your vision.
Elder Yvonne Rigsby Jones dedicated 29 years of her professional life to leading Tsow-Tun Le Lum Treatment Centre, retiring in June 2015. She has continued to be active in her work; currently as an Elder for SFU and a member of the Governing Council for the MSW Indigenous Trauma and Resiliency program, University of Toronto. Yvonne is Snuneywuxw First Nation, Coast Salish; a sister, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.
Kory Wilson is Executive Director of Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships for British Columbia Institute of Technology. Kory has over 20 years of experience in the post-secondary education, community development, and legal profession. Kory is Kwakwaka’wakw, and invites participants to make bold and courageous spaces.
Christina Gray is an Associate at JFK Law Corporation and practices in the area of Aboriginal law. She is called to the bar in British Columbia, the Yukon, and Ontario. She is proudly Ts’msyen from Lax Kw’alaams and Dene from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.
That evening, special guests Jerilynn Webster AKA JB the First Lady and Tesicca Truong shared space with participants during the social hour. JB the First Lady performed two of her songs and shared her experiences surrounding community organising. Tesicca helped facilitate dialogue amongst participants and shared her story about youth advocacy and running in an election.
Dylan Cohen and Elena Pennell guided participants in situating themselves in policy work, creating strategy practice, activism work, and how to meet with elected officials. Participants made their own statement of practice which were personal visions to help solidify their intentions.
Dylan Cohen is Red River Métis and Jewish and was formerly in foster care, turned community organizer, policy advocate, and graduate student. As a Master’s candidate in City Planning at MIT, he researches community economic development, social housing, public finance, and civic engagement.
Elena Pennell is Anishinaabe and proud member of the Alderville First Nation. Elena is a co-founder of RAMA Isla (Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture on the Island), a migrant justice collective dedicated to outreach and advocacy for migrant farmworkers on so-called Vancouver Island. She is a Social Policy Analyst with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs working to achieve fulsome recognition of First Nations Title and Rights in BC.
The staff and faculty are so proud of our 16 participants for their participation, honesty, creativity, and braveness. Policy work sometimes invites vulnerability, so we commend our participants for their willingness to be present and put themselves out there.
Stay in touch with LEVEL YPP for more updates: https://levelvf.ca/#stay-in-touch
Learn more about the faculty and participants here: https://levelvf.ca/youth-policy-program/faculty-and-participants-2022/