For the third year in a row, twenty-six Canadian students got to experience the trip of a lifetime to our nation’s capital! Participants in the 3nd annual Young Citizens program and Youth Forum enjoyed a full itinerary engaging all their senses as they toured Ottawa, from November 26th to 29th 2016.
These recipients were part of the 5th edition of the Young Citizens program. Their exciting visit featured tours of Parliament, Rideau Hall (the home of the Governor General of Canada), the Canadian War Museum, the Museum of Canadian History, and the Bytown Museum. While attending a series of workshops at Wabano Centre of Aboriginal Health participants were honoured at a lunch attended by over 100 guests. All attendees were impressed by the video montage sharing the Young Citizens incredible work and achievements.
As delegations arrived in Ottawa on Saturday, some with much longer travel days than others, students and chaperones were ready to begin this great adventure. After an evening meal with their chaperones, students from every province and territory gathered together to meet for the first time at our hotel; the Four Points in Gatineau. Our experienced tour director from EF Tours, Robert Majewski lead ice-breaking activities that turned virtual strangers into fast friends. With mementos exchanged and a birthday celebrated students headed to bed, dreaming of the adventures that lay just ahead.
The next day began with breakfast at Paddy Bowland’s, where students were energized for the day. Dressed to the nine’s, we arrived at Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. After being welcomed to unceded Algonquin Territory by Elder Claudette Commanda, students participated in the “Imagine a Canada workshop led by Carlene Bearhead from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). This workshop integrated art and story allowing the Young Citizens to express themselves and reflect of the Canada that they would like to build.
Following a delicious lunch with the winners of the Governor General’s History Awards, the Young Citizens were recognized for their outstanding achievements and shared a video montage of their winning videos, receiving certificates of achievement. The afternoon was spent at Wabano Centre participating in educational workshops aimed at raising awareness of First Nations history, culture, and legacies.
The next morning, our excellent bus driver Gaétan drove us to Dunn’s, an Ottawa institution, for breakfast. Filled with breakfast we were prepared to take on a day of extreme sightseeing. Our first stop was the Parliament buildings for a tour of Centre Block. Experienced parliamentary guides toured us around explaining the architecture, how parliament is a working building, and some of its history. The library was a jaw-dropping experience for some, and for others, seeing the Rotunda decorated for Christmas will be remembered for years to come.
On our way from Parliament Hill to the Bytown museum we took a few moments at the National War Memorial to remember those who have served in all of Canada’s wars. Just across the street and down the Rideau Canal we arrived at the Bytown museum and participated in their “Click” activity. Teams explored and photographed important sights and monuments of the capital city. A delicious pizza meal concluded our time at the museum.
Next, we took off down the road to Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada. There, the experienced guides toured us through the event rooms and explained the duties of the Governor General of Canada. They even kept up with the peppering of questions from ever inquisitive Young Citizens.
Following our visit to Rideau Hall, the Young Citizens and their chaperones were driven by Gaétan to the Canadian War Museum. After a short tour introducing the museum, and hearing some of the stories of men and women who served in major global conflicts, students were free to explore. Many wished that they had a whole extra day at the museum.
The visit ended with a short reception complete with photo booth! After a very full day of learning we let loose at Fun Junction, open exclusively to us that evening. Here a large buffet had been prepared. Somehow we found the energy to play Laser tag and arcade games there after such a full day.
When we returned to the hotel it was time to pack. The next day everyone would be travelling home. But first email addresses, Snapchat’s, what’s app’s and phone numbers were exchanged.
The day to return home arrived and Young Citizens were filled with many emotions. The strong ties they had made over the past couple days would be tested as all prepared for their long journeys to their homes across the country. We said good-bye to a few of our delegations very early in the morning. For those with later flights we enjoyed a breakfast at the hotel, before heading to the Canadian Museum of History.
Though the adventure of the 2016 Youth Forum is over, we will all remember the friends we have made and the memories of our experiences forever.
In closing we would like to extend a special thanks to our sponsors; First Air, Great-West Life, London Life, and Canada Life, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the Federal-Provincial Task Force on Cultural Engagement. Your support for the Young Citizens program and Canadian youth makes a difference in the lives of many.
A special thank you must also go out to Robert Majewski, our EF tour director. He kept the group together by creating a positive atmosphere for exchange, engagement, and questioning throughout the Youth Forum.
In addition, a huge thank you to our adult chaperones. Many of whom are also coordinators working and volunteering countless hours towards the Heritage Fairs program. We thank you for your commitment and positive attitude throughout these long days of activities.
Finally, we cannot thank the Young Citizens, who made this adventure possible, enough. They worked incredibly hard at every stage of the Young Citizens program and brought their best with them to Ottawa. They proved that they were mature, talented and exemplary students time and time again. You have been great ambassadors for Canadian youth and examples to follow in your schools and communities. Hats off to you!