YARMOUTH & DIGBY, N.S. – Two teens from the region – Hanna MacLeod of Yarmouth and Reiley Killen of Digby County – say a recent trip to Ottawa made possible through their involvement with 4-H was an amazing experience.
As part of 4-H Canada’s 46th Annual Citizenship Congress (learn more about the congress by clicking here), the teens were part of a group of 4-H participants from throughout Canada who got to spend 6 days in Ottawa in early May. The group took part in a bus tour of Ottawa, toured the Parliament buildings, and visited the National War Memorial, among other things. West Nova MP Colin Fraser served as a tour guide and also had a luncheon with the teens.
A highlight of the trip was participating in a mock Parliament – an experience that played itself out on the floor of the Senate.
The resolution that was debated was: ‘Be is resolved that Canadians, as of graduation of high school or their 18th birthday, provide one year of service to Canada.’
“It was interesting to see how the different parties took their points of view. There were points brought up about military service and volunteer service,” says Killen, who was a member of the third party for the debate.
Asked if politics has interested him during the years, Killen, 17, says, “I’ve been interested in politics as in watching and learning about it, but I never really had an interest in so much being a part of politics. But after this, after the debate, it felt like something I was meant to do so you never know.”
MacLeod, 18, was on the government side in the debate and had the role of Minister Responsible for the Status of Women.
“On the government side, when you were sitting there, they were questioning you. It was hard to come up with responses on the spot and solutions,” she says. “But it was really interesting.”
Students had to apply, be interviewed and then selected to take part in the trip.
Another memorable part of the trip, says MacLeod, was watching a group of 30 people become Canadian citizens.
“It was amazing. It was really nice to see how happy and excited they were to be Canadian citizens,” she says, noting it is something that so many Canadians take for granted.
“Just to see the smiles on their faces when they walked up to get their citizenship, it was breathtaking,” adds Killen. “When they took their oath we all stood and took the oath as well.”
Both teenagers, who have been involved in 4-H for years, say they thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet other 4-Hers from across the country.
MacLeod, who after graduation from Yarmouth high school this year, will be attending Okanagan College in Kelowna, BC, says she got to meet someone she’ll be attending school with.
“I loved the experience of meeting new people and finding out things that they do and learning about them and their regions,” she says. “We got to learn so much about the country.”
Killen has been given back to this area as a member of the Plympton and Gilbert’s Cove Volunteer Fire Department. He says he started out his time in 4-H “doing the simple goat project” and says 4-H has opened up many opportunities for him.
“Now I’m actually starting my own beef farm and I’m showing cattle across the province,” he says.
Killen says meeting so many new people was his biggest takeaway from his Ottawa experience.
“Seeing how they do things differently in other provinces is pretty cool. I made some pretty good friendships while I was there,” he says.
Asked how the experience has shaped her, MacLeod says, “All of the workshops and activities focused on how we can be involved in our communities and why we should be involved in our communities. It really did make me want to be more involved in my community and be involved in what is going on.”
Three days before leaving for Ottawa, Killen had severely sprained his ankle and had to spend much of him time in Ottawa in a wheelchair or on crutches.
“I didn’t let it discourage me from going,” he says.
“It’s a good thing you didn’t break your leg,” this reporter says, to which Killen says, with a laugh, “I probably still would have went. I’m very determined.”
(Note to readers: An earlier version of the story indicated this trip was part of the 4-H Hands to Larger Service program. That is a different program. This was part of the 46th Annual Citizenship Congress.)