Local Grade 11 student Tea Miyanaga was an exception when she was able to visit Ottawa this past fall as part of the Encounters With Canada (EWC) program at the Terry Fox Canadian Youth Centre. Miyanaga detailed her experiences for town council at their Jan. 27 meeting.
“The trip was amazing — where do I start? The Encounters with Canada program is designed for kids from Grades 9 to12, to go visit Ottawa and stay for a week,” said Miyanaga, who travelled with a group of approximately 140 others. “It’s career-based, so every week there’s a different theme, whether it be law, science and technology, arts and culture. The focus is on a career, and the secondary aspect of it is a focus on Canadian nationality and unity, especially for youth.”
A program for Canadian teens which allows them to meet other like-minded young people from across the country, Miyanaga spent a week in the nation’s capital as part of the EWC’s law program, taking part in hands-on workshops, presentations and excursions.
“It was really, really interesting to meet different kids that are around my age with the same interests, and also the pursuit of opportunity — they were all there for the same reason, to experience Canada’s capital. Some of the really cool stuff we got to do there was visit the Supreme Court, go to our Parliament Hill, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Rideau Hall, the Canadian War Museum, and many other places.”
Participants in the program are encouraged to research their communities and come prepared to share that knowledge with others.
“When we weren’t doing something that had an educational value, we were definitely taking in the culture of the city, going to an NHL game, going to a musical or an orchestra — we even received traditional voyageur dance lessons one of the nights,” said Miyanaga.
True to form, Miyanaga noted Ottawa lived up to its reputation as one of the globe’s less hospitable winter capitals, but apparently this hardly served to blunt the high school student’s experience.
“It was really snowy — I went right in November. It was pretty cold. My favourite part probably was going to Parliament. It was beautiful — I couldn’t believe how beautiful the building was. It felt like it was our government in a castle.”
More language barriers existed for students from Western Canada as opposed to other regions of the country, according to Miyanaga.
“The best part, I think, was to witness the other kids my age there. There was a huge focus on bilingualism there, over 60 per cent of participants knew both languages, and the population that didn’t were definitely from around this area. I was meeting with kids from Saskatchewan and Alberta, and we were all like ‘I don’t speak French’. It definitely increases your interest to learn it, that’s for sure. It was really cool to meet people and to interact. I would highly recommend this program for any student who is wanting to see more of Canada.”
Coun. Randy Sparks congratulated Miyanaga on her willingness to serve as an unofficial ambassador for the town.
“I appreciate your report. It’s very awesome to witness the enthusiasm you had to go out there and participate in this, because we all know that you were and are a true ambassador of our area and the town of Taber, and I personally do appreciate that.”
Coun. Jack Brewin echoed Coun. Spark’s comments.
“Very nice presentation, and really good that your were there to represent our town and this area.”