Aug 12, 2022 | Mental Health, Faces of HDGH
August 12th is International Youth Day. For this Blog, we have a very special Q&A session from Malek Mekawi, HDGH Youth Advisory Council (YAC) Member as well as Student Trustee for the Greater Essex County District School Board. If you had any fear about the future of our world, you will fear no longer after reading more about this bright, talented, and driven Gen Z. Enjoy and breathe a little easier knowing our future is in good hands with youth like Malek!
My name is Malek Mekawi, and I am currently headed to the University of Windsor for Engineering this fall. Throughout the past few years, I’ve come to gain a deep concern, understanding, and passion for issues in need of social awareness. This led me to join not only the Youth Advisory Council at HDGH, but also seek the position of Student Trustee for the Windsor-Essex public board; GECDSB. I’ve come to meet many individuals across WE that have shared similar concerns and a drive to take action. Aside from my roles in youth advocacy, I am involved with several extracurricular activities in my school community, including student council, mock trials, and helping plan a series of fundraisers for those in need. I’m almost always talking and tend to be an outgoing individual, which allows me to better connect with my peers. Aside from that, I enjoy any and all Italian food and spend most of my free time binge-watching any action thriller I can find on Netflix.
I first joined the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) in the fall of 2019. A grade ten student at the time, I sought out opportunities to put my leadership and deep awareness of advocacy to use. I served as a Communications subcommittee member. Given the council was still relatively new, we worked collectively to spearhead our social media presence and promote the role of the council across Windsor-Essex. Over the course of two years, our committee worked to promote topics related to our mandate of social justice, mental health awareness, substance misuse and poverty in our community. YAC is comprised of three subcommittees that all complete unique tasks to drive change, though we’re all working towards one larger cause: youth awareness and advocacy. Working alongside other subcommittees and the council as a whole, communications shed light on all YAC initiatives, notably the Wellness Through Grace event held in May of 2021. Most recently, I moved from a communications subcommittee member to one of the Events committee co-chairs. This committee is more focused on the planning and execution of our initiatives. Through consultation with our partners, committee members, and youth, we work diligently to host engaging and informative events for students. The Youth Photo Voice Project was the first events-related task I had the honour of working on. The event enabled youth to capture issues across the community through a cinematic and photographic lens. Shedding light on issues that may be overlooked or surrounded by stigma. Students worked for several weeks to capture the perfect picture to help raise awareness on topics from climate change to mental health adversities. The events committee is also working alongside YAC committees, toward hosting our second Wellness Through Grace event in the fall of 2022. The event aims to promote key issues youth in the community value as students hear from notable speakers and experts from across the community.
Most people will often make note that youth are the future, while simultaneously overlooking their critical insight and opinions. It’d be an understatement to say youth hold a unique outlook on life. The input of youth is unlike anything else, given our deep understanding of current trends and issues. As health care continues to progress, institutions like hospitals are required to uphold greater responsibility in the community. Beyond simply serving the emergent medical needs of community members, it is vital that those in positions to engage in preventative care by sharing their knowledge, like health care professionals, work to engage with the communities they serve. There is no better way to truly understand the needs of the constantly evolving generation than to involve them. Involving youth in health care settings helps bring awareness to stigmatized issues that may be evolving within our generation, issues only we can truly understand and work to resolve. The Youth Advisory Council works to do just that, echo the voice of youth in a health care setting. Issues evolve and adapt to the times, so the way some issues are approached needs to change too. Inviting fresh ideas and insight from youth allows hospitals to uphold their vow to truly protect and serve their communities.
The Youth Advisory Council is hard at work planning our second annual Wellness Through Grace event. It offers an opportunity for like-minded youth across Windsor-Essex to engage in an informative, exciting and unique social awareness event. The emerging themes of WTG come directly from our mandate, which we’ve worked on extensively to ensure YAC is representative of the various issues across Windsor-Essex directly impacting youth. This year, students will hear from exceptional guest speakers on topics of mental health, social justice, substance misuse, poverty and a Let’s Get Real session focused on broader and stigmatized concerns.
The Wellness Through Grace event was founded to empower the youth of tomorrow by spreading awareness of ongoing issues in our community. If youth really are the leaders of tomorrow, then we must work towards providing the necessary resources to inspire change, and that begins with relearning stigmatized and seemingly simple issues. WTG will focus on a wide range of issues concerning youth and by the end, we hope students will be inspired to take action in some capacity.
Student participants are encouraged to work within their school communities to create groups focused on tackling a proposed issue. We strongly encourage all high school youth in the region to participate. Teachers are also encouraged to sign up their classrooms for a full day of thoughtful learning. Individuals may register by visiting the link in our Instagram bio, @hdghyac. Students will also be able to register by visiting our platform link.
This year’s theme for International Youth Day reiterates the idea that no one should be left behind, by inviting collaboration amongst all generations, to foster a better future for all individuals. Creating a world for all ages is more than just inviting ideas from across the board. We must work as a collective to hear each other out, truly learn one another’s perspective, acknowledge the work that needs to be done and work towards formulating a solution where all are treated equally, with respect and integrity. Now, more than ever, controversy divides our communities, usually stemming from our lack of understanding for one another. As the leaders of tomorrow, it is up to our youth to prevent that continuous cycle.Intergenerational solidarity starts with a conversation. I encourage all my fellow youth to consider an issue they value and use it to evoke conversation with those from previous generations. As opposed to simply researching the headlines, look into how these issues have evolved, from one generation to the next. Consider how and why previous generations have failed to resolve the matter. To truly work towards an everlasting solution, we must equip ourselves with the knowledge of those before us. Generation Z is strong, resilient, and smart. So, to Gen-Z, use that to embark on a journey of social justice and awareness. However, such an initiative should be inclusive of the intersectionality that exists. Next time any of you decide to step up and take action, do so by inviting help from your parents, cousins, friends, teachers, mentors and so forth.Lastly, to promote solidarity across all generations, it is important to continue to be understanding of one another. Ahead of jumping to conclusions when a controversial conversation is struck, try to uphold respect for others and be understanding of their perspective, regardless of how difficult that may seem. If we can continue to host valuable conversations and pinpoint arguably outdated ideals, we can work towards fostering a system that will grow and prosper for all. We should be working as one, to ensure one generation's errors are everyone’s responsibility, otherwise, we will never truly evolve as a society.
We may not be able to control the time era we’re born into, but we can surely make the most of it. I’m finally heading to university next year, and if there’s anything 18 years of being part of “Gen-Z” has taught me, it’s that nothing is truly impossible. My generation embodies the spirit of true natural-born leaders, in all forms. There are no overlooked issues, no tolerance for harmful outdated ideals and certainly, there is no such thing as giving up. The leaders of tomorrow are unlike anything the world has seen before. Our commitment to resolving the issues of previous and current generations is evident. This generation can band together in seemingly impossible situations, to be heard, be seen, and enact true change. My generation was born to fight, overcome and make noise.
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