Every generation has its leaders. I have had the opportunity to meet many of them through my experience with Forum for Young Canadians (FYC). Each year since 1975, this non profit organization based out of Ottawa brings approximately 350 students, aged 15 to 19 years old, from across Canada to Ottawa to develop leadership skills and to learn about parliamentary democracy, civic engagement, how government works, and how they can make a difference. Students are chosen by FYC for sound academic performance; demonstrated or potential leadership; extra-curricular and/or community involvement; and an interest in leadership or in national current affairs.
Once FYC have chosen the students, they then invite public servants from all government departments to become Group Leaders to these students. Selection is based on the candidate's professional and / or volunteer experiences, ability to work with youth and adults, understanding of the Forum's objectives, and availability to live in residence with the students for the duration of the session to which they are assigned and have the stamina necessary to follow a demanding week. If they do a good job the first time, they may be lucky enough to be invited back.
I have been a correctional officer for over 25 years in the Pacific Region. I have worked at 3 levels of institutions - Maximum, Medium, and Minimum, and I have had a very diverse career and am grateful for what I’ve learned and achieved during those years. I can easily focus on all the bad stuff that we see or experience as correctional officers, but most will tell you that it can make you very bitter. Many years ago I was fortunate enough to listen to someone that was much wiser than I who told me not to let my job define who I was. I took that literally which is why I applied for Forum in 2001. I had some experience working with youth as a big brother in Big Brothers of Canada back in the mid 90s and enjoyed my experience. Because of this, FYC felt like a good fit. Unfortunately my application was not accepted at that time and it wasn’t until 2011 that I had my first experience as a Group Leader.
I could speak of countless stories of the students that I’ve met through the years and continue to stay in touch with to this day. One such student is Nicole Laplante, who had her first experience with Forum in 2011 as a 15 year old student. She told me years later that when she first participated she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do as a career after school. She credits her week at Forum for helping her figure that out. She has since been involved with Forum as a volunteer, which is one of the perks of being an alumnus of the program. She has even explained that she would like to work for a government agency in the future so that she could apply as a Group Leader.
I believe the reason why they chose public servants as Group Leaders is to show the students the many diverse employment options that the public service offers. CSC is no different. It was my career choice many years ago and I believe I can speak to the many opportunities that come with the job. Many of these bright students already take part in their community and are actively involved in local, provincial and even federal politics. Some have even become Members of Parliament. It is an incredible feeling to be in a position to influence and encourage a young person to become a leader. I was even told once that I was the father figure she never had. You can’t beat a statement like that, and that’s after only one week with them. I would strongly recommend this program to anyone with high school aged kids, and to my CSC family.
Let’s Talk would like to thank Reg for submitting this article for publication. We are proud to have you as part of CSC’s family and thank you for spreading the good word about what we do to the future generation of leaders. Your article inspired us and we know it will inspire others as well. Good work.