Photos by Sukhwant Singh Dhillon

VAN South Youth Talks, a non-partisan event dedicated to empowering local youth, was held last Saturday (May 20) at Vancouver’s David Thompson Secondary School, where speakers shared their experiences of volunteering, advocacy, and citizen engagement. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, the MP for Vancouver South was himself one of the speakers.

The Van South Youth Talks was imagined and organized by the 12 hard working students on the Vancouver South Constituency Youth Council. Over the past year, they have organized community service initiatives, discussed issues important to them, and brought positive change to the community.

One of the speakers was Tesicca Truong, co-founder of CityHive, an organization on a mission to transform the way that young people are engaged in the planning, design, and shaping of their cities. She kick-started Vancouver Youth4Tap, a city-wide movement to promote tap over bottled water and co-founded the Vancouver School Board Sustainability Conference.

Other speakers:

Jason Costa, an administrative young professional, who graduated from Windermere Secondary School in 2009 and Langara College with a Diploma in Arts and Science in 2011.

Eileen Zheng, who became an advocate for organ donation after donating a kidney in 2015 to save her mother’s life. In the summer of 2016, she cycled across Canada to raise awareness and funds for tissue and organ donation.

Gabe Penner, who traveled through South East Asia with a film crew in 2013, documenting stories and experiencing life as it is for millions in that corner of our world.

Roseleen Batalia, the sister of slain SFU student and model, Maple Batalia. She noted: “When I use my voice, advocate for justice, and honour Maple’s legacy, focus my energy on the non-profit in her name it is healing, but it also honours my sister who lived, I honour myself who lives. It makes me understand to invest time and effort into relationships, and not waste time on judgement and harshness. Who I am today, is not who I use to be. Death changed my family but it also evolved us and made us stronger. The love we carry for Maple allows us to make a difference in the world of others. There are many accomplishments I could list but the only one that matters to me is how they help others. “Seva” to serve is our only true purpose and that is embedded in me through my family and through the true inspiration my sister Maple Batalia remains for us. The time we invest in making a difference in this world is the real true purpose of life and by spreading this mission through our younger generations; we can build a better and stronger tomorrow.”