“When you reach for the stars, you are reaching for the farthest thing out there. When you reach deep into yourself, it is the same thing, but in the opposite direction. If you reach in both directions, you will have spanned the universe.” – Vera Nazarian
Admittedly, writing this is a bit daunting when it really should not be. I mean, how hard could it be to sum up my Youth in Philanthropy experience? It is when I realize that YiP led to my experience in the Summer Internship Program, and SIP led to my experience in Stockholm+40, and that experience led to my joining the Global Young Leaders Conference … that it suddenly becomes obvious this is a daunting task indeed.
I hope to paint a detailed picture of the sheer magnitude and importance that YiP has played in my life. Back in 2008, as a young, bright-eyed grade 9 student at Westwood Collegiate in Winnipeg, my introduction to YiP came through my friends at St. Mary’s Academy who had been a part of the program. They spurred my curiosity about the program and this led to me going to the first meeting of … about 4 other students.
However, as I soon learned, what our committee lacked in numbers, we made up for in passion and dedication. It was this atmosphere, as well as the enjoyment I got from being exposed to the extensive not-for-profit network in Winnipeg that inspired me to volunteer as an inter-school representative by the end of my grade 9 year.
I was an inter-school rep for my entire high school career and I quickly realized that I was involved in YiP during a very unique period of time. For example, back then, my position was rare on the committee as it was often older students who were chosen to represent their schools. I was able to watch the inter-school committee grow from the packed boardroom of The Winnipeg Foundation with about 20 representatives to a much larger conference room on the 17th floor with almost 30 committees represented by two students per school. I was involved when a suggestion for more inter-school events eventually became YiP’s Battle of the Bands for two years running. And as an intern chosen for SIP in the summer of 2011, I benefited from the (then) record expansion of ten internship placements.
As you will find out by asking any SIP alumni, no two SIP experiences are ever the same. For myself, my placement at the Manitoba Eco-Network was not only educational and rewarding, but it also perfectly complemented my passion and work within the environmental field. My SIP experience facilitated my participation in Stockholm+40, an international conference on sustainability held in Stockholm, Sweden. As one of only three Canadian youth delegates representing the Young Masters Programme – an online youth platform on sustainability that I was part of – I was able to network with passionate and innovative individuals within both the private and public sectors as well as participate in roundtable discussions dedicated to the improvement of global sustainability.
My extensive involvement in YiP and other committees led to my nomination for the Global Young Leaders Conference in Europe held in July 2012. This conference is basically a traveling event held in the cities of Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; and Prague, Czech Republic. GYLC gathers passionate youth from all around the world to develop leadership skills, challenge mindsets within a cross-cultural context and facilitate discussion on global issues. I networked with other students from all around the world, and I now have standing invitations to places such as South Africa, the Cayman Islands and Indonesia. Together, both GYLC and Stockholm+40 represent the countless opportunities that YiP opened up that I could never have imagined as a grade 9 student more than 4 years ago.
Now, as an Environmental Life Science student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, with hopes of eventually entering medicine, I can only hope that my story encourages young people to not only extensively participate in YiP, but also to apply your utmost passion towards anything that you pursue. You will never know exactly how far it will take you!