To be honest, I was not excited to attend my first parliament in 2011, but I'd promised the Leader of the Opposition at the time (Melissa Baldwin, my best friend and Parliament hero) that I would.
By the end of the weekend, however, I knew that I wanted to stay involved. Over the course of the next two years I would make some of the best and most important friendships of my life. As Premier of OYP 2013 I worked alongside an exceptional Cabinet (as well as a Leader of the Opposition whom I accidentally fell in love with, that's him in the photo) to put our vision into action, a vision that I hoped would mean as much to first-time delegates as it did for me.
And it did mean a lot. Ontario Youth Parliament gave me a space to explore who I was, discuss topics that were close to my heart, and to grow as a leader. The OYP community is strong and vibrant and enriches the life of everyone who is fortunate enough to be a part of it. The clichés are all true; you get what you give and there’s no better way to learn than to try and plunge yourself into it, head-on. Being a teenager and a young adult can be a turbulent and sometimes scary and isolating time; but having a community of like-minded people to meet with, to come home to, can mean the difference between feeling alone and feeling connected to something much larger than yourself.
My story is only one, but echoes the experiences of many who have come before and I hope many who are still to come. Giving OYP a chance can mean giving yourself a chance—to grow, to laugh, to cry, to love, to be angry and engaged and valued—and we all deserve that.
Written by Miriam Sherwin, Public Relations Adult Resource Counsellor
Photo by Jonathon Reed