Joining the City of Edmonton Youth Council by 2015-16 Chair, Marina Banister

The first time I ever stepped foot into city hall, was the day I applied to be on the Youth Council. I remember being in awe of the beautiful building as I found my way upstairs into the Councillor waiting room for my interview. There I sat, nervously fidgeting with my skirt and finally mustering up the courage to make conversation with the other people in the room. I landed on complementing a young man sitting across from me on his brightly coloured suit. The man said thanks and ask me if I was here to interview for the Youth Council, as he was too. Little did I know a few years down the road, that colourfully clad applicant would be my future Vice-Chair, Cam Somerville. Walking out of the interview I was told that it was a competitive applicant pool, but despite my best efforts to maintain “realistic expectations” I couldn't help myself but be excited. “Imagine this!” I thought, “19 years old and spending 15 minutes talking to a half-dozen Councillors”. Eagerly, I waited to get the email which would confirm or pass on my application. Weeks later, I was thrilled as I found out I had been appointed. 

A student governance junkee, I went into the first meeting expecting a certain brand of ambition or a competitive sniff in the atmosphere. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my peers who were selected were kind, socially aware, altruistic, and driven. When people ask what was my favorite part of being on the youth council, I could say the opportunities to learn from experts, the community events, or the media interviews. But in reality, those don’t come close. My favorite part of being on the Youth Council is being surrounded by peers who inspire me to be a more engaged citizen. 

I am now 21, which in youth council years is getting to the upper-end of the scale. I love seeing 16 year olds know more than I do now. I loved seeing 23 year olds who were so happy they got on youth council in their final year of eligibility. Youth Council has taught me to have an open mind, to trust others in their own excellence, and to speak unapologetically about the innovation youth imagine is possible. Reflecting now, I think to myself “What did I imagine youth council would be?” and too be honest, when I was applying I don’t know if I thought too much about it. The way so many ambitious young people are these days, I saw an opportunity to get involved and I jumped first and asked questions later. Imagine my delight when now looking back I can say that my two years on the Youth Council have been some of the most meaningful work I have ever been part of.

So, not applying to youth council because you don’t know what to expect? I’d say, just go for it. The first time I thought about youth council, I imagine I thought it would be a fun adventure. Now I know that is was an adventure, that has shaped me into a better Edmontonian.

CEYC