By Sagar Grewal
Calgary’s Sagar Grewal was hand chosen by the Prime Minister as one of the of the ten new members of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council. He shares what made his application special out of the thousands of other
My parents immigrated from India to Canada before I was born, with the hopes of providing my family with greater opportunities, which is where my story began. I have spent my entire life living in Calgary. I am currently a student at the University of Calgary, where I am studying Biomechanics in the Faculty of Kinesiology.
I arrived on campus as a 17-year-old, excited for the opportunities which awaited me. Opportunities to make a difference in my community, pursue my passions, gain valuable perspectives, and build lifelong relationships. I found myself heavily involved with volunteer opportunities with various organizations, such as the University of Calgary Students’ Union. Unknown to me at the time, these experiences would change my life, as they allowed me to meet amazing and inspirational people, who encouraged me stay involved and chase my dreams to impact my campus and community.
This desire led me to running to be the Students’ Union Faculty of Kinesiology Representative; a role which I loved, and was later re-elected to. This position grew my interest in advocacy, which led me to my current role as President of the University of Calgary Students’ Union. Through my involvement with the Students’ Union, I have increasingly gained an understanding and appreciation for serving the greater community, and advocating for others.
My interest in public service and advocacy attracted me to the Prime Minister’s Youth Council. The council provides young Canadians with the opportunity to advocate and advise the Prime Minister on issues affecting their communities. This past spring, I was chosen by the Prime Minister from nearly 20,000 applicants to be one of ten new members of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council.
The selection process
Reflecting upon my application process and journey, I credit my experiences at the University of Calgary with helping me set myself apart from tens of thousands of other Canadians who applied. As the Faculty of Kinesiology Representative with the University of Calgary Students’ Union, I worked to improve the student experience for my peers. I worked to implement free academic support sessions, received funds to improve mental health resources on campus, and raised nearly one million dollars to create new student study spaces and barrier-free change rooms to foster inclusivity on campus.
As a strong proponent for healthy participation in sport and a lifelong athlete I also got involved with the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre which investigated sport related injuries in young athletes. I got the opportunity to conduct investigations which were supported by organizations, such as the International Olympic Committee and the National Basketball Association.
The opportunity to be a member of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council is truly an honour. However, I admit that it took more than one application to be where I am today. My first application was unsuccessful. However, applications are continuously reconsidered for subsequent cycles. The second time around, I debated for long and hard about whether I wanted to spend time updating my application or not, as I was slightly discouraged and felt that my odds of becoming a member were minimal. Hours before the application deadline, I made the decision to update my application, as I acknowledged that the application process alone would have been a great opportunity for me to reflect on my work in the community, and I realized there were experiences that I was proud of having been a part of since sending in my first application.
Weeks went by when, to my surprise, I received a request to complete a video interview. Months later, I received an email notifying me that I had been hand chosen by the Prime Minister to be one of ten new members on the Prime Minister’s Youth Council.
The Prime Minister’s Youth Council is a non-partisan advisory council to the Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of Youth, on issues that impact youth across the country. The council currently comprises of 21 young Canadians from across our nation, from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences.
Additionally, 15 former members have completed their terms, and now serve as alumni and have offered their support and mentorship to new members such as myself. Since beginning with the Prime Minister’s Youth Council in June we have had one in person meeting in Ottawa where we had the privilege of meeting with ministers from across portfolios, MPs from all parties and the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister’s Youth Council and Prime Minister have fostered an open dialogue about a range of issues that impact youth, and all Canadians, including mental health, sustainability, education and employment. The Prime Minister’s Youth Council has provided me with the opportunity to bring awareness to issues which impact young Canadians like myself, as well as members of the many community which I identify with and belong to.
With my studies, serving as the Students’ Union President, Prime Minister’s Youth Council and my other passions and interests, it certainly keeps me busy. I try to make sure whatever I am working on I am focused and able to devote my energy to it. It definitely requires developing time management skills and an understanding of how to balance competing priorities, while involving many late nights and early mornings. However, I admit that none of this would have been possible without the support of my family, friends and co-workers.
If youth are interested in applying for the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, I believe it is important that they continue to be involved in their communities, engaged in public service, and continue to have a vision for their communities and our nation where they see the potential for positive changes. They must be leaders while collaborating with others, to make our communities better for all those who may be impacted.
My message to South Asian youth, is to continue stay involved and engaged. It’s important for youth to see themselves represented in institutions and in positions of influence, as that empowers the next generation to gain greater insight in to their own potential. Along with that, comes the importance of mentorship, as once we reach influential and visible positions, we must continue to be exemplary role models, as our actions have the potential to inspire others to join us in driving change.
I hope that by being on the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, South Asian youth see themselves, or someone who looks like them, and are inspired to get involved in their community, or even apply for the Prime Minister’s Youth Council. Everyone’s path will not be the same, but everyone can have a positive impact on the world around them.