Natalie Anderson, with Niagara Regional Councillor for Pelham Diana Huson. DON RICKERS

Natalie Anderson joins youth representing Region’s 11 other municipalities

Regional Chair Jim Bradley’s Niagara Region Youth Advisory Panel held its inaugural meeting in late November, at which he welcomed, via Zoom, representatives from all 12 local sub-municipalities.

Natalie Anderson, a Grade 12 student at E.L. Crossley, was online as Pelham’s representative, as was Diana Huson, Pelham’s directly elected Regional Councillor. But the two did not meet face-to-face until last Saturday, when they spoke with the Voice at the Meridian Community Centre.

“I’m hoping that this council will expose me to greater diversity, and make me more aware of the different groups in Niagara,” said Anderson. “I’m really looking forward to getting to know the other student members, because we are like-minded. It will be awesome to connect with them, and discuss issues like equity and inclusion in the region.”

Anderson said that she is most passionate about environmental causes like recycling, but also sees mental health as a topic that needs greater attention.

The first meeting was an orientation on how Regional government works, said Anderson, who is also on the student council at Crossley, and serves as prime minister of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council in Pelham. In addition, she holds a part-time job at Sobeys, is on the school curling team, and plays flute in Crossley’s marching and concert bands.

Anderson has applied to medical science at Brock, Western, Queen’s, and McMaster for September 2022 admission.

Her grandfather was Lloyd Beamer of Beamer’s Hardware, the longtime retail fixture on Pelham Street. Natalie’s father, Doug, works at the store.

Huson said that about 60 applications were received for the 12 spots on the youth committee.

“Many of them had backgrounds on student councils at their respective schools, and most were quite politically minded. They are a really impressive group of kids,” said Huson, who has been a vocal advocate for more diverse voices, including youth voices, in the Regional government dialogue.

In addition to great interest in the environment, Huson said she saw plenty of concern around mental health, and how it is impacting Niagara’s youth.

An area that especially deserves youth input is regional transit, said Huson.

“The Region recently voted in favor of uploading Niagara transit responsibilities,” she said. “Two of the delegates who gave presentations were the presidents of the student unions at Brock and Niagara College, and we also had an Indigenous representative talk about the importance of transit for their people, as well as other racialized populations. The student presentations were quite impactful.”

Students, particularly in rural areas, can have long commutes to get to classes and part-time jobs, said Huson, who also noted that many had extra family responsibilities, such as looking after their siblings, and helping care for elderly loved ones.

“I want to listen to Natalie’s voice, because that’s the whole point of the committee,” said Huson. “My advice to her? Don’t be shy, or hesitant to contribute in the meetings. You’re there for a reason.”

The Youth Advisory Committee was developed to provide the Regional Chair and council with a fresh perspective on matters that affect young people across the region.

The panel’s primary role is to give advice on policies, programs, and services, identify gaps and barriers, and suggest ideas to increase youth participation in regional programs and services.