Ponoka youth advocate Yael Witvoet, aged 17, has been selected to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada’s National Youth Council (NYC), being one of just 15 youths from across Canada to make the cut.
“It’s a pretty elite group that’s chosen,” said Maren Vold, teen program coordinator at the Ponoka Youth Centre.
“I don’t think there is a kid I know that deserves it more.”
Vold added Witvoet is amazing, passionate, works hard, has a big heart and truly cares about the members of the youth centre.
Witvoet will serve a two-year term on the council as an ambassador and role model for other children and youth throughout Boys and Girls Clubs across the country and will have input on decision-making regarding issues facing young people.
Another huge part of her duties will be helping to plan their next National Youth Forum, to be held in 2021. All NYC members receive training on their specific areas of interest. They are also given projects to work on, or develop their own.
Witvoet will learn more about her new role when she goes to Toronto in March for orientation.
The criteria to become a member of the NYC includes the youth’s involvement with their Boys and Girls Club and the community they live in.
Witvoet has been a part of the Boys and Girls Club since she was 12, and has also been the president of the Keystone leadership club for the past three years.
One of her favourite parts of the Keystone Club is how the members take a personality test, and learn how every personality type can become a leader, and how different personality types work together.
Witvoet is an advocate for inclusiveness and is passionate about standing up for the LGBTQ+ community, those with disabilities, or anyone who otherwise feels marginalized.
“I want to make sure they all feel welcome in the youth centre,” said Witvoet.
Witvoet also started a “Jack” Chapter at St. Augustine where she attends Grade 12. Jack Chapters are mental health advocacy groups which focus on combating stigmas, education and awareness (see jack.org for more information).
Growing up, Witvoet says she experienced sexism and had to “push back” on that, as well as mental health issues and now wants to help others who may be facing discrimination to have a voice.
One of her role models is actor Jared Padalecki, from the TV series Supernatural, who is also a mental health advocate.
She also, of course, looks up to the advisors and staff at the youth centre, who Witvoet says go above and beyond to support the youth.
Witvoet’s also interested in youth crime prevention, and is the youth representative on Ponoka’s Police Advisory Committee. She has already been accepted into the University of Alberta’s bachelor of arts and criminology program.
Witvoet is looking forward to expanding her abilities and the larger platform that she will be a part of, allowing her to help more people as she travels around Canada.
“I think the NYC will just enhance the passions I have,” she said.
“I love helping the youth in our centre and joining the National Youth Council, I get to do that on a national level.”
She became interested in joining the NYC after attending the last National Youth Forum in Montreal in May, 2019.
The theme was expressing yourself through your passions and there were speakers and workshops on topics such as poetry, cooking and acting. The forum-goers were also treated to some sight seeing around the city.
It was also the support of Vold and executive director Beth Reitz that encouraged Witvoet to apply.
She filled in the application and sent it in with the recommendation from Vold in the fall. She then underwent a telephone interview.
It was a long few months of waiting, but Witvoet finally got the official word at the beginning of January that she had been selected.
“She’s perfect for this job,” said Vold.
“She’s definitely earned it.”