A proactive consumer
Carl Gascon Edgerton is 16. He’s in his last year at l’école alternative Le Vitrail alternative school, in La Petite-Patrie. From urban agriculture to the electronic currency bitcoin, Carl has learned about things that can make a difference in our society, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty to get involved.
“I launched an urban agriculture project at school,” he explained. “We were testing different conditions on hot pepper plants.”
The teen, who is interested in ecological consumption, also raised crickets. “Crickets are an excellent source of affordable protein,” adding that he had difficulties getting the insects to reproduce.
“I’m interested in lots of different things,” said Carl, “but one thing’s for sure: I want to have a career in which I can have a social impact. I think we can all be better consumers.”
Being young isn’t an excuse or an impediment to getting involved– quite the contrary. “I have the time and energy to do it. I don’t have overwhelming responsibilities, so I make the most of it,” said Carl.
A social poet
Emma Hason was just 15 when she presented her work “The Rush” at a TEDx conference. “We are 16,” she repeated, inviting youth to slow down and take a look at themselves. Since then, the Marianopolis College student hasn’t stopped sharing her songlike texts.
“It’s the little things in everyday life that inspire me,” said the 16-year-old. “I transpose them into writing to get people moving, shake them up a little bit, but always through connection.”
Sharing is at the core of her process. Writing is her outlet. “Everything that’s overflowing in my head, I put into poems and stories, and it gets my worries off my chest,” she explained. And the benefits of her writing have spread to her readers and audiences. “I don’t want to change the world, I just want to bring young people together and give them a feeling of unity. We’re never alone with our problems,” said Emma
“My parents always told me, ‘Youth is wasted on the young.’ As young people, we have a different and more creative perspective. It may be more naïve, but it can create a major ripple. We shouldn’t wait to become adults to get involved,” she said.
In a completely different field, François Pelletier and Nicolas Deloumeau, both age 16, had the idea to put the game of Chopsticks onto a Web and mobile platform. Chopsticks is a fun finger-counting game that students in elementary and middle school play at recess.
François and Nicolas didn’t just transfer the game to a digital platform – they used it to demonstrate artificial intelligence.
“At first, our game didn’t have any tactical aspects. It was learned by playing. Today, it’ll beat anyone who plays against it,” François explained.
The project led the two friends to the regional stage of the concours Expo-sciences. But what impressed them the most was the completely independent process used by the boys, who are both students at École Pierre-Laporte in Mont-Royal.
Nicolas is a self-taught programmer who learned from online tutorials. Next, the boys met a Université de Montréal doctoral candidate who works with world artificial intelligence specialist Joshua Bengio.
François and Nicolas believe that being young isn’t an excuse for having a passive approach to education. They want more than simply to enrich their personal knowledge. Their school has a high-techfab lab, including a 3D printer. The two friends spend hours there experimentingand exploring. Their intention is to create workshops to share their discoveries with the younger students at school.
A natural community builder
Angel Annanack Lacasse is deeply involved in her community. The young girl left Nunavut and her family at age 16 to settle in “the south” and go to college.
When she arrived at John Abbott College, the enterprising student wanted to get involved right away. She took part in activities with Fusion Jeunesse, an organization that fights social disengagement through a number of programs, some of which specifically address First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
“For two years, I took part in every activity that was compatible with my schedule,” said Angel. “Now it’s my turn to get involved by organizing several activities each week.”
Angel organizes a variety of activities, such as cultural outings and classes about cooking, sewing and personal finance. Activities bring together young people who are often isolated, and give them the chance to gain practical knowledge.
“Some cultures are quieter and more reserved than others,” explained Angel, who knows what she’s talking about. “We want to create an environment where everyone feels at ease. For youth who are often a few hours’ flight away from their home, we become a real family.”
Still, there’s no question of isolating themselves from the rest of the college. “We organize activities in which we presentindigenous culture,” said the 19-year-old Inuit. “There’s lots of misunderstandingand ignorance.” At her booth, Angel was able to change some prejudices.
The involvement of young people like Angel makes school a richer place for indigenous and Inuit students in Montréal, while helping them reach their fullest potential.