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My Wonderful Experience with HYI

By: Shahana Gugathasan, HYI Youth Volunteer

December 20, 2021

Hi! I’m Shahana, I’m in Grade 10 and I’ve been volunteering with the HYI for the past year now, since Grade 9. My time volunteering with the Halton Youth Initiative has come to an end now, however, it has been an extremely impactful learning experience. I cannot express how much working on these special projects has helped me grow as a person and not only that, but it has been a great outlet for my passion for activism. I’ve furthered my understanding of social justice and the different experiences that communities in Halton face, and what we can do to create more inclusive and compassionate environments, and the importance of doing so Especially in schools, as I learned a lot about what an equity team should be.

I began my time with the Halton Youth Initiative by joining the Halton Youth Impact Survey 2021 promotion team in early 2021. This survey, coordinated by Our Kids Network and developed by UNICEF, returned successful results! We were able to reach thousands of youth across the different cities that make up the Halton Region. I am still so glad to have helped with this project, getting the word out and engaging people through fun and creative social media posts, as the survey really helped youth share their voice and experiences, to drive the change they want to see in the Halton community. This project had also allowed me to develop my leadership skills, as I also had the opportunity to lead a group of younger youth through the survey.

Shahana's work to promote the Halton Youth Impact Survey

Similar to my social media role, I had also done the same to promote the Halton Youth Equity Summit, an event that educated a huge group of youth about equity, creating inclusive environments and gave them hands-on thinking tasks as well! It was also an incredible team experience, as I got to collaborate with my team as we decided how we were creatively going to engage youth and encourage them to join through our social media posts! The summit was a massive success and I’m glad to have helped out with such a remarkable event.

Sometime before the summer, I was invited by Lily Viggiano to join the Halton Youth Equity Team! Let me just say, the entire experience with this team was just fantastic! Everyone on the team was so incredibly supportive and respectful as we developed ideas together, and we had lots of fun at every meeting, even though we had to be virtual. The creation of the Equity Team Toolkit 101 was also something I participated in, creating one of the pages discussing how to educate our peers. I learned a lot through my partner and I’s research. This toolkit will have a huge impact on schools across Halton for sure and I hope to apply the concepts taught in it to my own school community too. Lastly, I had also helped with presenting this toolkit to our community partners and Volunteer Halton! Rehearsing with our teammates was a lot of fun and it was a great way to allow future youth leaders to share our voice and educate adults as well.

A screenshot from Shahana's portion of the Equity Toolkit Presentation.

Overall, my time with the HYI was absolutely unforgettable! It has been a safe, inspiring and enthusiastic environment for youth leaders to come together, learn together and create great change in the Halton community. It is a crucial experience that I recommend for all youth! Thank you Lily, HYI and everyone else for this wonderful opportunity!

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