A future in politics could be on the horizon for Hazelton Secondary School student Connor Coukell, who has been nominated to sit at the annual British Columbia Youth Parliament in Victoria in December.
The Grade 12 student was approached by the District of New Hazelton after last Tuesday’s council meeting, where it was decided the district would sponsor a local student to take part.
The Youth Parliament program, which invites young people to participate in the December parliamentary session, will not be Coukell’s first experience with Canadian politics.
He travelled to Ottawa as part of another program for high school students, the Forum for Young Canadians, which is a similar program at a federal level.
Coukell said his interest in politics had grown since his visit to Ottawa.
“That was kind of my gateway,” said Coukell.
“I’d been interested in it because I am very eloquent with words and I take a good interest in people.”
Although Coukell is planning to study speech pathology, he said taking part in programs like the Forum, and now the Youth Parliament, had planted the idea of a political career firmly in the back of his mind.
“It’s always been something that I’ve had an interest in but didn’t really want to pursue but now, with these opportunities that have kind of presented themselves, I have taken it into consideration for sure, seriously that I could do this and pursue it as a career,” he said.
Coukell said education was the issue he was most passionate about on a provincial level.
“It’s depressing really that we couldn’t have sorted it out the [B.C. Teachers’ Federation vs. B.C. government dispute] sooner because it went on for months,” he said.
After the youth parliament in December, students in the program will be asked to develop community service projects in their hometowns.
District of New Hazelton chief administrative officer Wendy Hunt said council had sponsored Coukell because they wanted to give a local student the chance to see how parliament works.
“There’s not that many chances for kids from the north to get to do things like this so as a council they think it’s really important to give young adults a chance to experience that kind of a life,” said Hunt.
She said Coukell was chosen because he had shown an interest in politics through his involvement with Forum for Young Canadians.
“When I phoned the school to ask about it Connor had heard about it already and had gone and asked about it so it turned out to be a perfect kind of a fit,” said Hunt.
“I think Connor will be an excellent choice and a really good ambassador for New Hazelton.”
Coukell also worked for the District of New Hazelton at the Hazelton Visitor Centre during the summer.
Hazelton Secondary School career counsellor Andy deBoer said it was important that the community and the school tried to match students with relevant interests to the programs that became available.
“There’s all sorts of different things that youth can do and the more of these things that we can tap into the richer a person’s experience at school is,” said deBoer.
“It’s unrealistic that each student at our school would get to do something like this, but as many of them as possible is [because] if we miss something, then it’s not as good.”
The Youth Parliament takes place Dec. 27-31.
Membership applications for youth aged 16-21 who wish to participate are available at bcyp.org.
The deadline to apply is at the end of the month on Oct. 29.