St. Thomas University students Oliver Hébert, Noah Turner, and Oriana Cordido De Sola are voicing their opinions on issues important to young people in New Brunswick and Canada.

The Constituency Youth Council, announced in the fall of 2016 by Member of Parliament (MP) for Fredericton and St. Thomas alumnus Matt DeCourcey, is designed to inform government on issues that concern youth.  Oliver, Noah, and Oriana are a part of that group.

The Council meets several times during the year to work on projects and share ideas, opinions, and concerns with one another and with DeCourcey.

Here’s what the St. Thomas students had to say about the opportunity.

What inspired you to apply to the Youth Council?

Oliver: Dr. Jamie Gillies, Communications Public Policy professor, forwarded me the information. I worked with some provincial organizations in high school, so I was ready to jump back into it. I’ve learned a lot at university, so I wanted to get involved in that way again.

Noah: The Council embodies a lot of what St. Thomas represents. The university is focused on social justice and that’s what the Council reflects, so it seemed like an opportunity to take what I learn in class and use it in a real-world situation.

Oriana: I wanted to continue getting involved in the community. As an international student from Venezuela, I want to leave my mark in a country that is giving me so much.

What are some of the issues you’ve talked about as part of the Council?

Oliver: Issues pertaining to LGBTQ rights, particularly with trans rights; I’m trans myself. There’s a discrepancy in New Brunswick around access to health care and rights like house and employment protection. Bringing this to the table and having people talk about it is really important to me. Mental health is another topic I want to talk about, and it applies to queer rights because people who are queer are more at risk of struggling with mental illness and are not able to get health care access.

Oriana: In the team I am a part of, we are going to address is the barriers of refugees for integration. 

What change do you hope to see in the future from your contribution?

Noah: The Council is a very new thing, and it was created to act as a channel between young people and the government. This year the roots need to be put in; it’s important the government begins to better understand who we are.

What benefits do you think the Council provides for young people in Fredericton?

Oliver: Young people being involved and actually talking to their members of Parliament. It’s hard to care about a political system that has ignored you for most of your life. We have really low voter turnout overall, but especially with young people and it has partly to do with the system not answering to us or not seeming to care about us. This will hopefully start changing that.

Noah: There’s now a place for us to go and present our own issues, where it’s less intimidating than if we were presenting among older, more experienced people who may already have their degrees. We can also actually talk directly to members of Parliament.

What skill set has STU given you to prepare you for this?

Oliver: I’ve been able to talk with professors and students, and take courses that have challenged the conventions of my thinking. St. Thomas promotes critical thinking. I’ve always been an analytical thinker, but my education has allowed me to make new pathways in my mind for thinking about issues and how to go about changing them. It makes me better at doing activist work and working with other people because I think in a more diverse way.

Oriana: Critical thinking is the strongest skill I’ve developed at St. Thomas that helps me with my work in the Council. Learning how to be open minded and critical when looking to solve a problem around us is key. 

Noah: St. Thomas teaches you to think critically. When you come to St. Thomas, you start to dig deeper to fully understand issues and develop opinions. Now I’m able to see different perspectives—not just my own. I talk to people and use all my resources. It’s remarkable how much St. Thomas has changed me in just a year and a half.