Published on April 4th, 2014 | from CAMH Education
Introducing the National Youth Advisory Committee
By Olivia Heffernan, NYAC
“Where do we even begin?”
That was the question that Tyson Herzog and I asked ourselves during a meeting with our supervisors (Dr. Joanna Henderson, Gloria Chaim, and Megan Barker, of Child, Youth & Family Services here at CAMH) when the topic of forming a Canada-wide youth group was brought up. Our undoubtedly alarmed expressions weren’t due to inexperience – we had both facilitated plenty of youth groups before. It was the idea of starting a national committee from scratch that left Tyson and I with a handful of mixed emotions – excitement to apprehension to…well… all-out fear.
In the moment we responded to the request with enthusiastic nods and steady reassurances. A shield of forced confidence was hiding our self-doubts and mild panic. Thankfully, our combined anxiety was more obvious than we had originally hoped. Joanna, Gloria and Megan sensed our discomfort and expressed their full support. They would answer our questions, provide us with contacts and help us get the word out. They wouldn’t let us flounder. We breathed a collective sigh of relief and were eager to prove ourselves.
As impossible as it initially seemed, we did get started…
…and with a whole lot of help from our colleagues from the Youth Systems Innovation Group (YSIG), the National Youth Advisory Committee – or NYAC as we like to call it – is a fully operational!
Youth Qualities for Framework
- ‘Telling it like it is’
- Being inclusive
- Social – connect youth with similar interests
- Flexibility for involvement
- Embracing the quirks that we have
Tyson and I spent a lot of time talking about what we wanted this group to look like and a few things were clear. Firstly, we knew that we wanted the NYAC to encapsulate all things “youth”. By brainstorming together we came up with a list of ‘youth qualities’ to use as guidelines as we built the framework and norms of the committee.
Additionally, we agreed that the NYAC must emphasize the values of honesty, transparency, and flexibility– in its members, structure, and organization.
The ideal vision for NYAC was to make it so huge that every youth in Canada would know about it and participate in some way, even if only on a casual basis. As unrealistic as it sounds, this vision gave us a good jump off point for how to structure the committee. It’s one of the reasons that we decided to give members so much choice in terms of participation. We made sure to have different membership roles that allow youth to participate as much, or as little as they wish.
Fast-forward a few months (a great deal of coffee/tea/candy and some brain stimulating yoga exercises later) and we have built a foundation for this committee.
The National Youth Advisory Committee is officially a working group, made up about 65 youth across Canada. We are a committee that provides feedback on research projects as well as other initiatives that need a youth voice, and at the same time we hope to work on our own nationwide project!
If you are a youth or know of youth who may be interested in getting involved feel free to contact myself, Olivia Heffernan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would love to have you/them involved!