Students in a classroom hold their hands up to answer a question.

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Student “Shadow” Council

Port Alberni teenagers can't stop, won't stop

Port Alberni City Council getting overseen by… high schoolers?

Right now, Students for Change may “just” be a group of high schoolers.

But as any parent of teenagers will tell you, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

“The young people of today are the councillors, mayors and business owners of tomorrow,” said Faith Sutton, Grade 11 student.

Social Justice 12 students have been especially active in the Valley’s politics this year, and they’re making moves to take their influence to the next level.

Students Riley Evans, Sabella Senft, and Faith Sutton from Anne Ostwald’s Social Justice 12 class have formed Students for Change, a project they just pitched to the city council.

They’re very in-tune with the city’s happenings and have a lot of ideas they’d like to see put into action.

The idea of Students for Change is to create a “shadow council” made up of students to watch over and give input on the topics brought up in city council.

“Although our opinions are often overlooked, they are in some ways the most important ones,” said Evans, a Grade 12 student.

The shadow council will meet once a week, then meet with the city council once a month. In meetings, they would talk about community issues and give their take on potential solutions.

A new shadow council would be elected each school year, and its ultimate goal would be to create a better, more welcoming community for all.

Mayor Sharie Minions said she is happy to see students engage in local government, and noted the whole class has done good work in the past.

“This class has a reputation for bringing forward thoughtful ideas and taking the time to develop an idea, a plan or a solution,” she said.

Some of the topics that students have discussed include mental health resources for youth, cleanups, vacant buildings, and safe sidewalks and crosswalks.

According to city CAO Tim Pley, if the project is given the go-ahead, the students will be in control of their own committee, and won’t be governed by city regulations.

“This is a student-driven initiative, and we will be responsive to your needs.”

Students for Change will be presenting to School District 70 board trustees in January.

If it goes through, we’ll be hearing some fresh new voices—and council will have a few more people to answer to.