By Neil Armstrong
Pride Contributing Writer
TORONTO, Ontario – The TO2015 Youth Advisory Council is planning a 3-day weekend youth summit for March 2015, just before the Pan Am Games opens in Toronto in July.
The council is made up of young people from diverse backgrounds across the Greater Golden Horseshoe region who act as an official committee to the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015).
The organizing committee has implemented the first-ever diversity policy in the history of the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Its goal is to represent all communities and abilities through its staff, volunteers and procurement opportunities.
Ranging in age from 16 to 24, members of the Youth Advisory Council plan and implement relevant and engaging youth-focused initiatives or signature programs that celebrate and highlight the Games.
Mehrunnisa Kharodia, 24, a keen sports enthusiast, had recently graduated from a sport management program when she came across a posting in August 2012 to join the council.
She said the youth summit, which hopes to attract 250 participants, is the main focus of the council although its members are involved in other volunteer opportunities like the community tours.
“It’s a leadership conference. We’re hoping to have youth delegates between the ages of 16 and 24, people that we think are leaders within their community who can take something important away from this conference. And, hopefully bring what they learn – the knowledge and the networks from this conference – back to their communities to develop their skill sets and bring positive impact to their community,” said the resident of Cambridge and University of Guelph graduate in international development.
Her sport management postgraduate diploma is from Algonquin College in Ottawa.
Even though she likes watching sports, she figured that her involvement on the council would give her an insider’s perspective of what goes on behind the scene of the sports. She thought it was the perfect mix for her.
The majority of the delegates will be from the Greater Golden Horseshoe area and some will be from other parts of Ontario.
Kharodia said they want as many people to be involved as possible while acknowledging that there are some constraints such as budget and time related to flying youth from the Caribbean and the Americas to Toronto for the summit.
“We’re trying to work with Cisco to have an online streaming available to all these youths across the Americas so even though they’re not going to be physically there, we hope that there’s going to be this streaming available so they can be involved in this conference,” she said.
There will be workshops in the mornings and activations in the afternoons wherein the participants will go out into the community and apply things learned.
She is excited about Games being held in Ontario and said that sports has an amazing ability of bringing people together and “if it’s anything like the Vancouver, the excitement, the energy, I think it’s going to be phenomenal.”
Kharodia said the Games also provide the opportunity to develop some of the province’s sport infrastructure.
The council, which has 29 members, meets once every two months and is broken into smaller groups focusing on different things. Those groups meet more often, once or twice per month.
The youth advisory council acts as an advisory to the largest multi-sport Games ever hosted in Canada.
Youth council members have a chance to meet new people and make meaningful connections, create engaging and important initiatives and gain volunteer recognition and develop valuable skills.
The TORONTO 2015 Pan Am Games, which open on July 10, 2015, will feature an estimated 6,000 athletes from 41 countries and territories.
They will compete in 36 sports, including women’s baseball and golf for the first time, in venues located in 15 municipalities in southern Ontario.
The Parapan Am Games, which runs from August 7-14 and features 1,600 para-athletes, will be the largest Parapan Games ever held.
Canada previously hosted the Pan Am Games in 1967 and 1999 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.