The town council of Moosomin will have someone new sit in on their regular meetings.
Victor Santos Junior who is a grade 11 student at McNaughton High School, will be representing the interests of the town’s youth at the regular town council meeting as Moosomins first youth councillor.
“It is just a voice for the school. It is a voice for the students to make sure the students are heard right. If something is wrong or if there is something we feel needs to be done, then I can step up a be a voice for them. I think the school sometimes gets over looked, some things could be improved on and I feel the school could really benefit from this,” said Santos.
On hearing that he had won the seat by acclamation, Santos was pleasantly surprised.
“It was a big surprise to me. They called me down to the office one day and they said the first person they were thinking about is me,” said Santos.
He hopes to use his new position to be a good representative of the town’s youth.
“I see it not just as a leadership position, but also as a messenger. I will be representing the school most of all. They are the priority. The issues that they have. If students can come and talk to me and then I can step up and address these issues, that is how I see this position, a messenger,” said Santos.
Santos is honest about the fact that municipal politics is not something that is discussed much amongst the teens at McNaughton School.
“I think sometimes students don’t pay a lot of attention to local politics. Students are worried about passing classes and getting into good schools,” said Santos.
This is, however, a good chance to teach the importance of local politics.
“It definitely needs to be taught that is for sure. If you are part of this community then you have to get involved in this stuff and you should know what is going on. Students definitely need to be informed about what is going on,” said Santos.
Santos feels that this is a good step towards getting students interested in how the municipality works.
“I honestly think that seeing a face like me on council might get them more interested. I think then they might want to get a little more involved, and that is what I hope to do, get everybody else involved and do their part,” said Santos.
Santos says he sees the position as an opportunity to learn a lot more about the community and is coming to it with an open mind and a desire to serve his community.
“Honestly, I just see this as a chance to get involved and give back to the community.
“If I can voice my opinion and help make this a better town, that is honestly the end goal here,” said Santos.
Santos also makes it clear that he will not be speaking in meetings until he has listened to the demographic he will be representing.
“First I will talk to the school. I can’t just voice my opinions I have to listen to school first. Seeing what their issues are, asking if they have any concerns at all,” said Santos.
Originally from Honduras, Victor came to Moosomin with his family.
After fleeing from violence in Honduras, the Santos family was on the verge of being deported from Canada a few years ago.
The community of Moosomin rallied around them, and the federal government granted the family a visa extension after significant outcry from the community, and the family are now in Canada permanently.
voices his support
Jeff St. Onge, McNaughton High School’s principal, was pleased to see Santos in the role.
“What we initially wanted to do is have an election, but at the end of the day (due to COVID-19), it was just too difficult to pull off an election under the rules. So, we reached out to a number of students that we thought would be really good candidates, and Victor had the greatest enthusiasm and he let his name stand and that is how he was selected,” said St. Onge.
“He carries himself so well. He looks you in the eye and he listens and he can carry a conversation. He will be a great representative of the youth in this town,” said St. Onge.
St. Onge sees the role of representative as one of great importance.
“I hope that we have a representative who is able to express the ideas of the students in our school and provide input into the direction the town takes,” said St. Onge.
The idea was first introduced at the beginning of 2020.
“I would say that it started in about February of this year. Councillor Murray Gray came and talked to Vice Principal Sherrie Meredith and myself. He was very interested in this and we really enjoyed the idea. Then the year just faded away and then it popped up again and thankfully it did. The initial idea happened seven months ago and then it got dusted off and resurrected,” said St. Onge.
Although the first student representative got his seat through acclamation, the hope is that future candidates get sent to council after being elected.
“Right now, Victor is in grade 11 and as soon as he graduates we are hoping to have an election. By then our kids will be far more familiar with what the position means and I would imagine we will have a lot more candidates,” said St. Onge.
Some of the issues that affect students are as mundane as signage.
“Surprisingly, some of the issues are as mundane as school signs. Kids are driving really fast past our schools and we have students come in and say ‘a car went ripping by really fast’, so that just comes down to local signage. There you have an example of a real world issue that happened last week and the week before,” said St. Onge.
Recreation also seems like something that Santos can help speak to when it comes to the youth.
“Our kids are involved in athletics within the community. Be it playing ball or curling or bowling and usually they are at the rink, so he will be able to be a liaison between the students and the town on those issues,” said St. Onge.
“Our kids are shoppers they purchase things and though that is more chamber of commerce, but as soon as you start dealing with the town, you are dealing with the chamber of commerce as well. All of a sudden you are dealing with the really big picture and it is all coming together. That is the part that I am excited for,” said St. Onge.
St. Onge does have some advice for the new youth councillor on the Moosomin town council.
“Usually my advice to people who move into new positions like this is to move into it, sit, listen, watch. When you get your legs under you, then contribute,” said St. Onge.
The principal also has some advice for the council itself:
“Ask him and include him.”
Idea was brainchild of Councillor Murray Gray
The idea of bringing a youth representative on to town council was the brain child of councillor Murray Gray after he came back from a Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) convention held in February.
“When I was at SUMA, we had a breakout session talking about inclusion and shoulder tapping and getting different points of view to your council and that really struck me as a good way to engage our youth and find out what they are thinking. After that I brought it up to council and everybody was in favour and we have been working on making it happen since about February of this year,” said Gray.
The official motion for bringing on a youth representative was passed at the regular town council meeting held on Wednesday.
“It was passed. He has been appointed as our junior councillor. He will be able to attend the first meeting in November,” said Gray.
The idea is that a youth representative to council can help keep Moosomin looking forward.
“Some of the decisions that we make effect people along way down in the future. The future of any community is their youth so it is nice to know that we are engaging them to see what they are thinking, especially when it could be something that will affect the community 20 or 30 years down the road,” said Gray.
Gray feels this appointment could have been good on a few issues in the recent past.
“There have been several things that we have talked about where I wish I could have asked the youth about over the last few years. When we talked about how full the school is or when we talk about our recreation facilities and what we need and just an opinion from the youth about what they think is important in this community to make them stay here after they are done school,” said Gray.
From jobs to entertainment and recreation, Gray thinks a young perspective can be useful. Gray is sure that Santos will be a good fit.
“I’ve met him a few times. He is very confident he is well spoken and it seems to me that he is a perfect fit,” said Gray.
As a first term councillor, Gray has some advice for the new youth representative.
“(He should) engage with the students he goes to school with just like I would engage with a tax payer. If he engages with his fellow students and gets the lay of the land about what they are thinking, then he will be able to represent them. I would recommend he get out there and talk to some of the students and get their opinion,” said Gray.
Victor van der Merwe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator