Charity Spotlight: This blog post is part of our charity spotlight series and was provided by Marie-Michèle Laferrière, Executive Director of the Forum for Young Canadians, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
Every spring on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, something amazing and transformative happens. It has little to do with parliamentary business and everything to do with the future of our country. We call it the Forum Experience.
Nicholas Scarcelli has packed a lot of leadership into his 16 years. As a high achiever and successful student, he’s used to having a voice and commanding attention. Team captain in sports, president of his elementary school student council, vice president of sales in a Junior Achievement company—he’s done it all, and thanks to his passion for politics, in grade 8 he earned a spot in the Legislative Page Program at Queen’s Park in Toronto. That experience gave him the chance to observe how Ontario’s government functions. But according to Nicholas, none of these life opportunities compares to the week he spent in Ottawa at Forum for Young Canadians.
“This is the program,” said Nicholas, now a grade 10 student from Oakville, Ontario. “I really wanted to learn about federal politics. This combined everything I could have wanted.”
Enthused about the inspiring, hands-on nature of the program—sitting in actual senate seats, meeting all sorts of inspiring leaders— he describes the Parliament Hill learning experience as very different from anything he’s ever done before.
Never did he expect to be speechless. But he was.
Perhaps his most indelible memory would be witnessing Member Statements by his peers from across the country. Just as MPs make one-minute statements on matters of importance in the House of Commons, Forum teens spoke up about real-life issues and challenges they’ve faced.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘Wow these people have so much more to talk about,’” he said. “It opened my eyes to a lot of things I had never heard about, to quite a few different problems.”
Coming from an affluent community, this was the first time Nicholas had been exposed to young leaders just like him—bright, capable people—whose life circumstances and priorities were vastly different. The opportunity to hear about these first-person experiences, particularly Indigenous issues, was eye-opening for the young leader. Nicholas was able to see firsthand how Canada’s system of government is about representing real people beyond procedures and podiums. He gained a new perspective on why public engagement and political action matter. In his words, “I’ve taken a lot of mental notes on different ways of leading,” he said.
Our History of Building Our Future
For 42 years, Forum for Young Canadians has worked to ignite a spark that inspires bright, ambitious and engaged teens aged 15-19 into leaders of today and tomorrow. Non-partisan, bilingual and inclusive, Forum’s weeklong program allows young people from all walks of life to experience Canada’s government in action.
“Forum has taught me more about myself and our country in a week than school has taught me in 13 years.” – Deema, ON
Since 1975, the Foundation for the Study of Processes of Government in Canada has sought to demystify the political process, and to ensure that student voices are heard. Through the Forum for Young Canadians, its flagship program, the Foundation provides young people 15 to 19 years of age direct access to the history, procedures, and energy of Parliament Hill. It also creates a collaborative community of engaged young leaders. This is an opportunity for students to network, practice a second language, and apply learned skills into meaningful community action. In fact, many of today’s political leaders made their debut at Forum.
Forum by the Numbers:
- 9 MPs, including three sitting Cabinet Ministers, are Forum alumni in the 42nd Canadian Parliament;
- 350 of Canada’s brightest youth minds come together every year in the nation’s capital for a behind the scenes look at Canadian politics;
- 20,000+ Forum alumni live across the country and continue to drive business and politics in Canada and abroad.
Concepts such as citizenship, democracy, public policy and governance are integral to the functioning of our country, but what do they really mean to our youth? During the annual summits which happen three times per year, the Forum program fosters leadership skills by giving participants the opportunity to learn about government, democracy and citizenship, meeting various actors in the Canadian public realm, and connect with other young people whose interests are similar to their own.
On International Youth Day celebrated by the United Nations on August 12th to “celebrat[e] young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace,” it is our hope that our work to develop our future leaders will bring about an even brighter tomorrow with a more politically engaged population of Canadians, both young and old.