Students from the College of New Caledonia (CNC) are lending their voices to an international conversation on global peacebuilding at the United Nations Association in Canada's Youth as Peacebuilders Forum.
To be held Nov. 14 to 15 in Vancouver, it's the third UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference working to shine a spotlight on youth perspectives regarding peacebuilding efforts across the globe.
"It is critical that representatives from outside larger city centres have their voices added to the conversation," the team's faculty mentor Garth Frizzell said. "This is a really big moment for the students, CNC and for Prince George."
CNC students Stephanie Jack, Graeme MacKenzie and Storey Layton prepared for the forum by connecting with other student teams at the University of Northern British Columbia as well as student teams from Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Hong Kong via videoconferencing.
For Layton, participating in this forum is an opportunity to counteract the feeling that certain youth voices get lost in the overall grand scheme of it all.
She believes pushing for mental health resources and programs in communities and schools is incredibly important for youth younger than 18.
"At that age, it's hard to feel accepted," Layton said. "I believe that with more resources, and education programs, kids going through emotional trauma will be able to better cope and understand what they're going through"
She would also like to advocate for the inclusion of under represented youth in Canada, including First Nations, LGBTQ, low income and immigrant youth.
"If we cannot include their opinions into our education and outreach, we won't be able to get the services we need to persevere in life," Layton said.
For CNC student Stephanie Jack, the opportunity to contribute ideas to talks on global peacebuilding efforts was a huge honour.
"As a First Nations person, it is important my community knows that the roles we play in leadership as youth help inspire and encourage others to get active and participate," she said. "We have a voice and the ability to build a better future."
As faculty mentor, this event brings Frizzell back full circle to his student years when he was the first Canadian Secretary-General of the National Model United Nations held in the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. That event brought together almost 2,000 students from around the world.
A final report from the forum is being presented at a town hall meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada's Minister of National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan and the UN Secretariat November 15.
"It is important youth become a part of the conversation," Frizzell said. "This is about strengthening the next generation of global leaders."
Opening opportunities for CNC students to have a platform on a global level is something the College's administration has pursued passionately, according to Jay Notay, CNC Executive Vice President Academic, Applied Research and Students.
"CNC couldn't be more proud of its students contributing their ideas to global conversations," he said. "These three are representative voices for central British Columbia, which is important to have heard."