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Tammy Robinson intends to pay it forward. The 19-year-old from Oxford House, Manitoba, had a transformative life experience in Ottawa in spring 2016 and she plans to make the same opportunity possible for other young people in her First Nations community. Tammy was one of 360 youth from across the country who attended Forum for Young Canadians in 2016. And she was thrilled to be part of a weeklong educational adventure on Parliament Hill, getting hands-on lessons in federal politics, public affairs and community engagement.

For this young leader, the trip was empowering. Last summer, when she found out she’d earned a spot in the program, she took the initiative to speak to her school principal and make a case for including other teens. As a result, seven Oxford House students, aged 15 to 19, were able to participate.

It’s a big deal for the small, struggling, fly-in reserve 950 kilometers north of Winnipeg. “A lot of students here are living in poverty and they get into drugs and alcohol, so they don’t really come to school,” she says candidly. “They don’t feel the motivation to come to school.” That’s one reason she rallied a whole group to go to Forum. Participants learn how to speak up, work together, take action and make a difference. Tammy and her Oxford House crew want to inspire their peers and create a better future for their community.

 

First, though, the seven teens had to come up with the funds to pay for the program. Since part-time jobs and extra money are scarce where they live, fundraisers were organized to help cover costs. But then deaths in their tight-knit community meant they had to cancel those events. As a result, there was some last-minute financial scrambling “just to get here,” Tammy notes. “And we actually made it.”
For a young person who talks about enduring poverty, bullying, and an insular education with outdated textbooks, this was an incredible chance to be part of the dynamic world of politics, decision-making, networking and potential.

What did she learn? “Parliamentarians are people just like me,” she reveals.  “It’s possible to make a change just like they did, to come here, to do these kinds of things.” Now, Tammy talks of running for council some day. In the meantime, she’s excited about sharing her knowledge and helping other kids make changes for the better. “Even if you feel like you’re stuck, it’s possible,” she says.

 

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