A new fellowship has paired 13 equity-deserving youth with members of Edmonton's city council for internships that prioritize two-way learning rather than top-down instruction.
Participants in the Civic Youth Fellowship began their eight-week internships on May 1. It's a valuable opportunity to learn and be heard, said Omar Yaqub, servant of servants for Islamic Family (IFSSA), which was one of the "key conveners" for the program.
"I'm thinking back to myself as a youth, and I wouldn't have even imagined this (opportunity). I think about how it'll change the way people understand and access civics," he told Taproot. "It's one thing to think about civics as this impenetrable thing, this thing that might be distant. It's another thing to think, 'I see an issue or I see an opportunity, I'm going to text my city councillor because I have a good relationship with them and see what we can get done.'"
The point of the Civic Youth Fellowship is to offer young people opportunities while simultaneously training politicians to better engage with Edmonton's various communities.
"When we think about the youth who are selected, they come because they bring access to networks," Yaqub said. "It's incredibly important for our municipal leaders to gain access to those perspectives."
Tiger Bellerose, 24, applied to be part of the fellowship after Sarah Dharshi from the mayor's office reached out to him. Dharshi helps Bellerose with the social media for nimihitotân, the Indigenous-led dance collective he co-founded.
Bellerose is one of three fellows paired with Mayor Amarjeet Sohi. He said his perspective has been welcomed and encouraged since beginning his internship.
"Whenever I go into any space, what I notice first and foremost is that oftentimes I'm the only Indigenous person within that space. Even though it can be intimidating … it's really one of my biggest strengths," he told Taproot.