Markham teen named among Canada’s top 10 young changemakers

Ten young Canadians have been recognized for their leadership in driving social change as part of The Future is NOW Award, and among them is Meilun Yu, a teenager from Markham.

The winners are celebrated for their efforts in addressing crucial issues for Generation Z, including mental health, racism, discrimination, climate change, reconciliation, bullying, and physical activity.

Yu is a passionate advocate for youth empowerment and equitable opportunities. As the co-founder of a non-profit, The New Gen, she focuses on truth and reconciliation and amplifies the voices of Indigenous and northern artists. Her organization works to empower young newcomers, immigrants, and BIPOC youth through the arts.

The inaugural awards are hosted by Children First Canada in consultation with its youth advisory council. The goal is to support young Canadians making significant changes for a better future, with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau serving as the Honourary Patron for the awards.

The winners receive financial support and year-round mentorship to help increase their social impact.

Yu received the Friendly Future Award for Truth and Reconciliation, presented by TELUS.

“It means a lot to me because winning this award sheds a light on the importance of quality education and truth and reconciliation in Canada,” says Yu, “These are issues that greatly affect young people but are often swept under the rug. Hopefully through this award, I can introduce the vision that many young people including myself have on how we can create meaningful change in Canada.”

Earlier in 2023, she hosted an art gallery event in Markham to promote 30 works of Inuit and Indigenous youth from Nunavut, Yukon and The Northwest Territories. She has also partnered with immigration and culture centres across Canada to deliver online classes.

Under her leadership, the New Gen has established partnerships with many organizations such as the Vietnamese Women Association of Toronto as well as Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society.

Yu is also a member of Global Vision’s National Youth Advisory Council. She credits her experience with Global Vision for connecting her with “some of the best mentors in her life including Terry Clifford and Amy Giroux”, helping her understand the importance of engaging all students.

She said she believes that providing equitable resources, such as translator aid and multi-language clubs for newcomer/refugee/immigrant youth is vital to fostering inclusivity in schools.

“Education on truth and reconciliation efforts inside school is important, as well in building a safe and inclusive learning environment,” she said, encouraging schools to listen to youth and provide platforms (such as the student trustee position) that allow for youth to directly speak up about equity issues in education.

Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Markham Economist & Sun