Kellsi Packard plants a shrub at Sam Slick Park across from the high school.

Students get up close with government

By Darren Lum

Published Nov. 7 2017

It’s an experience they’re unlikely to ever forget particularly if it leads them to a political career.
Haliburton Highlands Secondary School senior students Vaibhavi Marathe and Arden Harrop are feeling inspired after getting an inside glimpse into the political machinations of the federal government.
The three-day Capital Experience program was offered by local MP Jamie Schmale from Oct. 22 to 24. It gives students with an interest in politics a chance to learn about the inner-workings of Ottawa from the people who work there.
The Grade 11 students were part of a group of 14 from seven secondary schools in Schmale’s Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock riding. The HHSS students were sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Haliburton and Minden.
They attended meetings with many prominent figures including Andrew Scheer leader of the official opposition officials from the United Arab Emirates and representatives from Summa Strategies Canada a government relations firm among others.

The students found out that many fields of study could take them to a career in politics.
“I learned there is no specific schooling you have to do or education. You can just [study] what you like and still get a job in politics” said Vaibhavi who is interested in studying science.
Vaibhavi and Arden said they have an interest in politics admitting they watch Question Period. This trip has bolstered their interest even more.
Vaibhavi loved being able to ring the bell in the Peace Tower. The students also saw how Canada’s anthem is played through meeting with the Dominion Carillonneur of Canada who plays the carillon.
Arden liked learning about the history of the Rideau Hall during the tour provided there.
Getting to learn about diplomatic relations which they understand as keeping communication open between countries was “really interesting.”
Vaibhavi had never been to Ottawa before this trip. She was grateful for the opportunity.
This wasn’t Arden’s first trip to Ottawa but it provided her more insight than what is accessible through tours of Parliament.
“It was interesting. Obviously we went into different parts and we got to meet a lot of different people” she said.
From speaking with the other participating students the two HHSS students gained greater understanding of what other teens like them are doing. One of the other girls they met had firm plans to reach her career goal.
“She was the same age as us so just to see how she [will do it inspired us]” she said.

Prior to this trip Vaibhavi wasn’t sure about her participation in the Model UN. Now with her new knowledge of politics she was encouraged.
“Because I have better understanding I have more of an interest in politics” Vaibhavi said.
“The program started by former MP Barry Devolin has been a very popular and beneficial program for young people in my riding’s seven secondary schools” Schmale said in a press release. “This is really a wonderful opportunity for me to work directly with some of our young people and expose them to a number of potential career opportunities they may not have previously considered or been aware of.”
When the Grade 11 students were asked if they would consider being the local MPs or MPPs of the future they both smiled and said “We’ll see.”