I believe getting involved in our communities is important for two reasons. First, it helps with the development and improvement of those communities. Second, it allows us to be part of a cohesive group that supports and encourages all members.

The expression “it takes a village to raise a child” definitely holds some truth to it.

Throughout my teens I felt the need to volunteer whenever and wherever possible. I rationalized that if giving my time can help further a cause that will benefit the community, then I will give all the time I can. When I first stumbled upon PCYI I thought it was a great organization and admired their mission. Their authentic youth engagement and their evidence-based work made them stand out to me. I never thought I would eventually join the Youth Advisory Council and with them, help make a difference in my community.

Being a member of the YAC has been an extremely rewarding and fun experience so far. The Council, composed of youth from a diversity of backgrounds, comes together to act as the voice of youth and make recommendations for PCYI’s work. Together we have planned and successfully executed events that benefitted youth in Peel. The moment I realized the impact we were having on the community was at the Peel Youth Leaders Conference. Youth from all over Peel had come together in one room to develop their leadership skills. I was able to meet a variety of people from different backgrounds and with very different aspirations. The conference was a success and an example of the potential that the council has to increase youth engagement in the community.

Another special experience was attending the PCYI Annual General Meeting held In October. I felt both proud and excited at the sheer number of formidable partners and organizations PCYI collaborates with, all of whom share the same vision: to ensure all youth have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Through partnership, these organizations work together to support and offer more opportunities to youth and their families. This experience has only made me more excited to participate in the PCYI Board meetings and I will work hard to make meaningful contributions.

I am very grateful for the many opportunities and experiences PCYI has given me. In one year, it has helped me build confidence in myself as a leader and grow as a person. I never would have guessed accepting an offer for a volunteer position would lead to such an interesting journey, and encourage all youth to make an effort to get involved in their communities.

karinaKarina Merida is a third year student at the University of Toronto majoring in Computer Science and Biology for Health Science. She is actively involved within and outside her community and volunteers for organizations including Partners in Health Canada and Ronald McDonald House Toronto. Karina joined PCYI’s Youth Advisory Council in 2013 and is a Youth Representative on the PCYI Board of Directors.

Karina’s year with YAC, and why you should get involved too