Creating #MarchForOurEducation (and Why Young People Can Do Anything)

The past month has been one of the busiest of my entire life. When this summer began, I never thought that I’d spend it running a provincial campaign, scrambling from interview to interview, speaking at rallies across Toronto, collaborating with politicians, and more. One day, I was working my summer job like everybody else; the next, I was being invited to Queen’s Park for private caucuses, watching politicians tweet out pictures with me, and hearing the leader of the Official Opposition say my name on national television. I went from being a silent part of the education system to being a key player in it’s future in a matter of weeks.

So, what so many people have asked me is: How? They wonder how a 16 year old girl could so quickly become an established activist, or how someone so young could manage to have their voice heard.

Well, the main thing I’ve noticed along my journey is this: A lot of the adults I’ve met think I’m an anomaly. I’m not.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of young people in my city who are passionate, intelligent, driven, well-spoken — everything you need to make a change. The issue is that we spend so much time telling young people that their voices don’t matter that most of us start to believe it. Hell, I believed it! We tell young people to wait — wait until they’re older, more experienced, more worldly. What nobody realizes is that the last thing we want is for young people to wait. We need our young people to realize that their voices are the most important ones right now, that we can’t allow our futures to be taken from us.

I’m not an anomaly. I’m like so, so many people I know: young, ambitious, loud, intelligent. That’s all you need to be to change the world.

Of course, every up has it’s downs, and while I’m proud of what I’ve done, it hasn’t been easy. For every positive tweet on our hashtag, there was a hate message in my inbox. Reading the comments on my speech that Andrea Horwath had spoken so highly of showed me a string of rape threats. The comments sections on articles about me quickly reached the hundreds — adult men saying I was a stupid bitch, an ignorant slut, a pawn of the liberal media. When you’re able to speak so proudly and so openly, people listen; whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is for you to decide. But I know that for me, no number of death threats could stop me for speaking up for young people.

I’m here to take my future out of other people’s hands. And I’m so incredibly proud of what I’ve done. Going from an unknown high school student to an acclaimed public speaker, United Nations contributor, writer, and activist in a month isn’t easy, but it’s possible: and I can’t wait to see my peers do it, too.