At 18, I only recently realized the importance of community involvement and politics

This column is the opinion of Shayyan Husein, a grade 12 student at Orchard Park High School in Stoney Creek, Ontario. This is part of a special CBC Hamilton municipal election project, showcasing the voices of the community. Find all of our election coverage here.

I turned 18 in April. I thought I cared about politics and being active in my community. I had been living in Hamilton for about a year by then and already felt dedicated to helping my community in any way I could.

For example, I worked for Elections Ontario, helping out at a local polling place. I helped Hamiltonians vote without any complications and the smooth running of the polling place was our main goal.

Last spring, I also helped start the first Muslim Student Association at Orchard Park High School. I scheduled school events such as selling Kulfis (ice cream treats) to students and made sure we always had a room available to hold our Friday prayers. This was all part of building a safe and inspiring community for Muslim students.

Yet, despite my activism, on June 2, I did not vote in the provincial elections—the first time I could have done so.

Why? It was like I didn’t have time. I felt like it wasn’t THAT important. As I was working in a polling station different from the one I had been assigned to vote, I felt like I had no time to go to my assigned place and vote. More importantly, I felt like missing my vote once wouldn’t matter much, so I allowed myself to miss it.

A few months later, I feel different. This time, in the municipal election, I will vote.

Why Community Engagement – and Voting – Matters

Building our Muslim Student Association from the ground up made me realize the true impact of community feedback and how much community voices can influence leaders.

I learned through my work organizing the first Eid eventwhich saw 60 students come together at Waterdown District High School, that you can make a change by simply leaving a suggestion or expressing your concern.

An Eid al-Fitr event in May brought together around 60 students, playing games, playing sports and sharing food. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

As our Eid event was all Muslims, many asked if they could invite their non-Muslim friends, which brought up a great suggestion that could be implemented. In the future, we can bring other students from different religions to discover how we as Muslims celebrate our holy event. Not only will they learn more about what we do, but they will also be able to enjoy what there is to offer, such as cultural food, different games and the atmosphere of our community.

Many students also wanted the event to be held in Orchard Park, as many of the students who attended the event were from here. In this way, transport would not be a blockage for the majority of those who came and for those who wished to attend.

Without the community’s engagement and feedback, we wouldn’t have thought of these ideas to implement and improve our future events for the community that appreciates them.

Realizing how important this engagement and feedback was also made me realize that my feedback to my own community is important.

That’s why I’m voting in this election.

what matters to me

The issue that matters most to me in this election is that young voices in Hamilton are not being heard. I realize that some of my peers don’t feel the same way, although I think their voice matters too.

On a recent school day in Orchard Park, as my friends wandered the halls rushing for lunch, I walked out to chat with five of my peers who are or will be eligible to vote in years to come from their perspective on voting and elections.

Four of them expressed disinterest in politics and said they would choose to “vote for who their parents or relatives vote for” in the future. The other friend still wasn’t sure whether to vote or not.

By not caring about our community and who will ultimately lead it, we do not allow ourselves to make a complete distinction between the different political candidates, what they bring to the table and what they plan to bring to the table. the future.

Encouraging my classmates and friends who are eligible to vote is something I slowly started doing because there is nothing wrong with voting. Allowing young people to have a voice within our community is powerful, and that’s what I stand for when I seek to vote in the upcoming municipal elections.

This year’s municipal election will take place on October 24. (Colin Cote-Paulette)

I encourage all voters, new or experienced, to use voting as a tool to make our voices heard on what we think is most important to us for our city. Hard-working candidates rely on our feedback for the betterment of our community, so our duty as a member of the community is to give our honest feedback. That way, they can keep doing what they aspire to do — and our priorities will be heard.

Our feedback can come in many different ways, such as emails, word of mouth, social media posts or even a simple vote. I want to use my vote as a way to allow my voice to help create action within the community.

Not only will I be voting for my own voice, but also for the empowerment of other young voters. After all, how do we expect our city to change for the next generation if we young voters don’t give our honest opinion?

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