A group of R. D. Parker Collegiate staff and students are hoping to create a high school city council and mayor that would act as a way for students to get involved in city government and a conduit for Thompson city council to hear student perspectives.
The idea was conceived by a Grade 12 philosophy class last year, said RDPC teacher Michael Thorbourne, who appeared before council at their Sept. 3 meeting.
“As our class was winding up, this group really got into the spirit of trying to effect change in a positive way in their community,” he said.
One of the projects they came up with was to apply for grants from RBC and the Thompson Community Foundation to put on youth camps next summer aimed at building positive relationships. Thorbourne said it is looking like that project will get a $15,000 grant.
“Part of their exam was to finish up this presentation for the RBC grant,” Thorbourne said.
The other idea was to establish a high school council and mayor and committees in areas of interest to students.
“Our mayor that oversees the committees could be the person that joined us on council and they would have a tap from their subcommittees that they’re meeting while in school,” Thorbourne said.
A local business has also offered to provide the student city council with some money to spend on student-driven projects in the city, he added.
Councillors were supportive of the project.
“The Municipal Act gives us the ability to have a student member of actual council,” said Coun. Jeff Fountain. “That student doesn’t actually have voting power, however the student would sit in all conversations that council partakes in and I would certainly love to see one of the senior students come and sit here with us and see how interesting the discussions can be and how important it is to get involved.”
Coun. Les Ellsworth said that, as a retiree, he has lots of time to work with any standing committee or city administration to make the idea a reality.
Council had youth representatives during the 2010 to 2014 term, said Coun. Judy Kolada.
“This is quite common across Canada,” she said. “It’s something that we didn’t have last term but it worked great when we did have it and I would certainly encourage you to encourage the students who want to be involved.”
Mayor Colleen Smook said she’s had eight RDPC student interested in city issues approach her since she became mayor and that she appreciated student input on Thompson’s transit system and the pool planning committee.
“The more youth that we can have involved moving forward gets us 67-year-olds off the hook,” she said.
“I can’t see a way it would look bad in the news if we were the first municipality to fully incorporate something permanent with our students to let them have a voice in the city and take some ownership over their community and the issues that it’s facing,” said Thorbourne. “It’s good to have all the voices involved.”