Youth in action: Abbotsford students look to increase volunteerism

A group of high school students are working to boost youth engagement in Abbotsford.

Members of the Student Connections team are (left to right

Members of the Student Connections team are (left to right

A group of high school students are working to boost youth engagement in Abbotsford.

Driven by a desire for social change, seven Abbotsford teenagers formed an action team last year called Student Connections. Their goal is to create a new volunteer culture at the youth level.

“Our motto is engage, empower and elevate,” said team member Tanya Thakur, a Grade 12 student at Abbotsford Collegiate Secondary School. “We want to engage youth, we want to empower them through that engagement, and through that engagement comes elevation of their status in the society of Abbotsford.”

Student Connections will act as a mediator between the student population and non-profit sector. They recently partnered with Volunteer Abbotsford to gain greater access to community resources. The group will not only connect students with volunteer opportunities, but seek to initiate their own activities, for example, organizing fundraisers for local charities and hosting youth workshops.

By engaging students from diverse backgrounds, Student Connections also hopes to help break down social barriers.

“You sort of create this community that’s whole and more welcoming. In a way, it’s also teaching cultural tolerance,” said Thakur.

Student Connections is part of Food for Thought, a collaborative initiative focused on engaging youth in leadership roles in the community. The project is implemented by S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and B.C. Healthy Communities, with funding from Service B.C.

“Traditionally in this community we’ve seen youth not having a voice, youth not being able to engage other youth, and I think that we’ve seen the outcome of that not being done,” said Zein Sangha, youth coordinator with B.C. Healthy Communities in Abbotsford. “This project is really the first of its kind to have adult allies and resources in place for these young people to create, lead and empower other youth.”

Student Connections has organized a youth leadership conference on March 5, called Day of Action. The first half of the day will focus on promoting youth engagement in the community through educational workshops, followed by a lunch networking event with local non-profit agencies. Leadership teams will then come together to identify goals for youth action and social change.

Keynote speaker Alex Shipillo, leader of the Impact Entrepreneurship Group and founder of Youth Canada, will kick off the day.

The free event is open to students aged 14 to 18, and runs 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Abbotsford Collegiate. To register, email abbyconnect@gmail.com, or visit www.bchealthycommunities.ca and click on Day of Action. Any local organizations interested in participating in the lunch networking event can contact Sangha at 604-825-6950.