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By Laura Bohnert
The Youth Advisory Committee and Mayor For a Day are both currently seeking youth applicants in Whitecourt.
The Youth Advisory Committee, composed of Whitecourt youth, “is geared towards students, aged 13-18 to look at issues through their lenses,” explains Mayor Maryann Chichak. “It is also there to mentor them and teach them a little about philanthropy, municipal governance, to build self esteem and confidence, and to teach them to become mentors for their peers.”
The Committee, which meets four to six times a year and liaises with Town Council representatives, ensures that the needs of community youth are communicated.
“Each member has the opportunity to earn $500 a year towards post secondary education when he or she graduates,” Mayor Chichak explains. “To earn full dollar value, each member has to participate in and attend a minimum number of youth advisory meetings, one Town Council meeting, and a minimum number of philanthropy events in the community.”
Members can choose to help organize and assist with such events as Party in Park, Canada Day, Seniors Week, and the Trade Fair. “There are quite a few different things they can participate in and provide input into the organization of,” Mayor Chichak notes.
“There are so many components of the community that the Youth Advisory Committee impacts—it is one committee that I have always taken pride in,” she smiles, pointing to its reach, impacts, and its growth in terms of members, year after year, as points of pride.
Another point of pride for Whitecourt is the Mayor for A Day initiative.
“Mayor for A day is something that started in 2016,” Mayor Chichak explains. “It allows two youth, one from grades six to eight and another from grades nine to 12, the ability to shadow the mayor and learn a little about the municipal government.”
“These youths will fill out an application and write a short essay regarding what they would like to see started in Whitecourt that is geared to their age group, and why,” she notes, adding that “Successful applicants will be selected by the Youth Advisory Committee, so they are chosen by their own peers on the Committee, which I think is awesome.”
“The successful applicants are usually brought in on the fourth Monday of the month, and they sit in on police, economic development, and youth meetings, as well as a review of the Council agenda with the Chief Administrative Officer and the Deputy Mayor, and they sit at on either side of the mayor for a Council meeting,” Mayor Chichak explains.
Both opportunities, Mayor Chichak stresses, are important.
“It is very important to look at issues through the lens of youth because they are our future leaders and business owners and employees,” she explains. “Each meeting teaches the basic rules of order, provides them with opportunities to develop public speaking skills, and provides them with necessary life skills, which is important.”
“It’s also important to the community to listen to all demographics,” Mayor Chichak emphasizes. “They all utilize services and see a need for change and improvements, and unless you ask them the question, you’ll never know the answer.”
If you are interested in applying to sit on the Youth Advisory Committee, you can contact the FCSS Program Coordinator at 780-778-3637 extension 417, and if you would like to submit an application for Mayor For A Day, you can contact the Whitecourt Boys & Girls Club or find more information on the Town of Whitecourt website.