Written by Youth Advisory Board Members, Stephanie Woodworth and Mark Christian.
Steph: Hey Mark! I am so happy to chat with you now that our Youth Advisory Board (YAB) term is wrapping up. I have been reflecting a lot on my time as aYouth Advisor–attending the YAB retreat, recruiting partners and youth teams, co-writing a children’s book (Canada’s Great Water Adventure), hosting water workshops in schools and community centres–it’s hard to believe how much we have accomplished in the past 8 months! There were so many wonderful opportunities that accompanied the Great Waters Challenge (GWC) and I will cherish my memories as a Youth Advisor for the rest of my life!
What are some highlights of the YAB position for you, Mark?
Mark: Hey Steph! It’s great to connect with you and reflect on our time as Youth Advisory Board members for the Great Waters Challenge. We have shared many laughs and experiences with the YAB over the past year! One of the highlights for me was the group retreat in Ontario, where we met the other YAB members from all across the country. The retreat was a great opportunity for me to learn new skills in facilitation and recruitment for schools and prizes, and connect with young water leaders. It was so inspiring to meet young leaders from across the country tackling water issues in their home community!
What were your experiences like hosting the workshops in the different classrooms with the various teachers? Were there any standout moments for you?
Steph: Every youth team, teacher and youth leader that I worked with were unbelievably kind, caring, intelligent and open to learning more about water. I am so grateful for all of the water stories that were shared with me. The youth were full of ideas for water celebrations, and it was very special to see their ideas come to life after they submitted evidence of their final challenge. I ended up hosting at least 4 webinars and 7 workshops!
I was really fortunate to visit one of my school teams, John English, in-person for two workshops. It was very rewarding to video call with them and reveal that they won a field trip to Ryerson Urban Water! Their water celebration was AMAZING!!!! I was blown away! When I hosted their workshop, we tried to make sure that everyone’s ideas were heard. After merging their ideas, they decided to host a Water Fair at their school, where they created a news report video, water games, an art mural, they had music, merchandise, free popcorn, drinks…and more! The class had a lot of enthusiasm and determination, and it was clear once seeing the photos and hearing about how it went! I am so proud and happy to have been their Youth Advisor. I can’t think of a more rewarding feeling!
How were your experiences hosting GWC workshops? Did you get to connect with any schools really well?
Mark: Connecting with local schools was a highlight of my YAB experience! I was fortunate to connect with Nanoose Bay Elementary here on Vancouver Island and visit their Grade 6/7 class for a workshop and attend their Water Celebration. I was blown away by the students’ water knowledge and passion not only of local watersheds, but global water issues as well. I will never forget contacting the teacher at Nanoose Bay and congratulating the class on their field trip to Swan Lake and the Salish Sea Centre in Victoria–a prize our fellow YAB member, Megan, recruited for the GWC!
How did you recruit partners for GWC prizes in your area?
Steph: First, I followed up with previous partners from Great Waters Challenge 2016-17, and then I searched the web for organizations and companies that were focused on water and the environment in Ontario. Field trips were a big focus of prize partner recruitment, so I tried my best to reach out to those who I felt could offer a cool learning experience for youth! Overall, I must say that I found recruitment a big challenge! I realized how much time it takes to build good relationships and connections with people in order to have strong partnerships.
What was your biggest learning experience as a GWC Youth Advisor?
Mark: I have had many learning experiences over the past year that I will take with me from the YAB. I also found recruiting schools to be both a challenging and learning experience. The GWC is still a new concept to most teachers and community groups, so the promotion and outreach of the GWC initiative was more difficult than I expected at times, but it was successful in developing my outreach and promotion skills.
What are your plans with Waterlution for the future? How are you helping recruit new YAB for next year’s Great Canoe Journey school program?
Steph: I will continue to promote and sell Canada’s Great Water Adventure, and I will mentor the incoming YAB for the GWC in British Columbia and the Great Canoe Journey. Specifically, I will help out the new authors of Waterlution’s next children’s book! I know that Waterlution is constantly growing, so I hope to also grow with the organization, and continue engaging youth to become future water leaders!
What are your upcoming plans with Waterlution? What’s next for Mark?!
Mark: Waterlution has been a great organization to volunteer with and I plan to continue supporting Waterlution initiatives and future volunteers in the upcoming GWC in British Columbia and the Great Canoe Journey. I will take on a mentor-type role and support new volunteers by sharing lessons I have learned in the recruitment of schools and prizes here in British Columbia. I am excited the GWC is continuing here in British Columbia and I plan to reconnect with schools and environmental organizations who are excited the GWC is continuing here in BC.
I’m also looking forward to promoting the GWC and the Great Canoe Journey this year with you, Steph, and the new YAB cohort! It has been such a great experience volunteering with you and the rest of the YAB. I can’t wait to meet the next group of YAB members! If you know of any youth in your community and are passionate about water, they can sign up for the 2018-2019 volunteer term.
Steph, do you have any advice for incoming YAB?
Steph: If there is one thing that I learned from Waterlution it is “be like water and go with the flow!” When things seem to get chaotic, or you feel like you hit an obstacle that you cannot cross – take a deep breath and find another way! Water will always find its way through any crack, hole, or slit. So, be like water and you can do anything!
What would be your advice for a new YAB-er?
Mark: My advice is to not be afraid to reach out to fellow YAB members. At times the role can be challenging, and often there are other members experiencing the same challenges in their community. The YAB is spread out across the country and you may be the only YABer in your your area, so I encourage everyone to reach out and connect with each other. The YAB is a great network to be a part of!