BAY ROBERTS, NL — One lucky student at Ascension Collegiate has quite an eventful year coming up.
Laura Keefe, a 16-year-old student at Ascension Collegiate, was recently named one of 30 Education First (EF) Canadian Youth Ambassadors in Canada, and one of two chosen from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Every year EF – an international education company specializing in educational travel, language training and cultural exchanges – selects 30 students from across Canada to act as Canadian Youth Ambassadors. Their task is to address issues they see in their communities, specifically those that can have a strong significance on an international and global scale.
Keefe said she was already signed up with EF to go on a tour with some other students at her school. They received an email from EF about the contest last fall, asking them to write a short, 150-word paragraph about what they would like to do to change their community in a positive way.
“I said, ‘well, okay, 150 words didn’t seem too bad,’ so I got to writing and sent in my idea,” said Keefe.
“In December, I got another email telling me I was selected out of over 650 different applicants, and one of the two from here in the province, as a Canadian Youth Ambassador, so that was pretty exciting.”
The idea that led to Keefe being selected for this title came from an ongoing issue she saw in her hometown of Bay Roberts, and other communities in the area. She told The Compass the generational gap between teenagers and seniors in Newfoundland was something that stood out to her for quite some time. With the province’s aging population, Keefe said she felt seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador may feel left out and lonely in smaller communities such as Bay Roberts.
Her solution to that problem was to hopefully provide ways for younger people to better connect with their elders, leaping over the generation gap as best as possible.
“I would like to organize monthly visits to senior homes and other facilities, where myself and some other teens in my age group could just visit them, play some board games, share stories with them, share some musical talents – so I thought it would be nice for us to be able to get involved with each other in those ways,” she said. “Since many of the resources for this idea is really just a time commitment, I think it’d be very simple to get it set up and make it happen.”
As a Canadian Youth Ambassador, Keefe will be joining the other 29 selected students for a trip to Ecuador this coming March, where they will spend a week in the Amazon rainforest and take part in some community involvement activities.
The week-long trip will see them staying at the Minga Lodge as a part of the ME to WE program – something Keefe was also involved in during a trip to New York. She noted she is excited to see some of the ideas passed around in New York come to fruition in Ecuador.
“I’ve been to the States before, but never travelled beyond that, so I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be pretty cool,” she said of the trip.
EF Canadian Youth Ambassadors will be travelling to Ottawa for the opportunity to meet with members of parliament, senators and other community leaders. There, they will discuss ways to make their ideas become a reality for their communities.
“We’ll receive some mentorship from them, and they can help us launch our ideas, and help us make sure they actually happen,” Keefe said of the trip, which will take up an entire weekend in May 2018.