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HELPERS: Newmarket youth group empowers civic-minded teens, readies them for next steps

Newmarket Youth Leadership Group is welcoming new members ages 13 to 18

For many students, graduating to a new, larger school — from middle to high school, and from high school to college or university — can be a source of stress, uncertainty and fear.

Not only do students have the daunting task of adapting to an entirely new schedule and environment, the experience can be isolating for those who are too shy or uncomfortable to put themselves out there among unfamiliar peers.

Luckily, the Newmarket Youth Leadership Group, open to youth aged 13 to 18, is here to help make the transition easier.

Founded by Newmarket Ward 1 Councillor Grace Simon in April 2019 and currently helmed by senior president Teresa Kruze and youth president Stephanie Morris, the youth volunteer group aims to make Newmarket a better place by creating more volunteer opportunities, organizing youth-driven activities, and empowering Newmarket’s youth to take an enhanced civic role within their community. By working with senior leaders and mentors, members develop leadership skills and are empowered for school life and beyond.

“Grace Simon wanted to form a group that would help youth as they got ready for secondary education and life. She wanted guide them and mentor them, make sure that they were civic-minded, worked within their community, and understood the importance of giving back, while still giving them the tools that they needed to move ahead into the next stage of their lives and adulthood,” said Kruze.

Over the past three years, Newmarket Youth Leadership Group’s volunteer efforts have included several fundraisers in support of regional charities 360°kids, Inn Grom the Cold, and Abuse Hurts, organizing a 2020 winter carnival, and, uniquely, creating two informative, self-produced TV-style Facebook Live shows on university life and the transition between elementary and high school. Members receive volunteer hours for their efforts, helping fulfil their high school requirements.

The Newmarket Youth Leadership Group also meets up once a month — since COVID-19, virtually — to listen to guest speakers and enjoy mentorship and leadership lessons. When meetings resume in-person, they plan to restart activities like 3 on 3 basketball tournaments, luncheons, and picnics.

During the course of the pandemic, they have raised a total of $2,100 for local charities by selling poinsettias raffle tickets, and vegetable boxes.

“For our raffle prizes, we supported local and small business in Newmarket,” said Kruze, an early volunteer who took over leadership from Simon last year. “We helped in two ways: with Abuse Hurts, and with small businesses.”

Upcoming events for the group include a guest speaker series, which will feature Laura Robinson and Allison Graham. Robinson, TV producer and the inventor of the board game Balderdash, will speak about goal setting and execution, while Graham, an author and consultant, will discuss coping with fatigue. Elias Kanaris, a leadership consultant who was on the famed plane that landed in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11, was the series’ first speaker.

“The NYLG helped get myself known with other people in the community and other leaders, as well to see how they like to lead and run their area of the community,” said Morris.

Morris, a student at Newmarket’s Huron Heights Secondary School, has volunteered with the NYLG for four years. As youth president, she runs and oversees meetings, encourages engagement in members, organizes the directors and sends plenty of emails.   

“I think that it’s a great opportunity to get yourself out there,” said Morris. “I found that it was one of the best ways to help my social and public engagement, and increase my civic role within our community.”

Having lost many of their members to university, the group is now seeking Newmarket-area teens to join their group.

For more information or to join the Newmarket Youth Leadership Group at their next meeting (Feb. 13 at 3 p.m.), contact Teresa Kruze at [email protected].