Youth Profile: Help Change My City with Sara Pratt

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sara pratt

My name is Sara, and I’m 16 years old. I was born in a small city in Mexico called Merida. I was five years old when my parents decided it was time for my family to move and by April of 2006 we began our new lives in the city of Vancouver. At first, everything was a bit difficult since a different language was spoken, and it was a completely different way of life but soon after we adapted to living in a much different and larger city. With both my older sister and I attending school, and my parents working, we were able to learn English relatively fast and adapt to the everyday Vancouver life.

I am currently grade 12 and attend Templeton Secondary School, located in East Vancouver. Even Though I live in Surrey now, I manage to make my way to Templeton every morning, looking forward to attending school. There are many reasons as to why I attend Templeton, but one of the few main ones is because of their variety of programs and clubs available. Girls leadership class is one of the amazing programs. It is an enthusiastic and welcoming course, that I look forward to every year. I first attended the class, when I was in grade 9 and I was taken aback by all the support and courage that both the students and our teacher Mrs. Zambrano had to offer. Their continuing efforts to give back to the community is one of the main reasons I look forward to attending.

I originally heard of Help Change My City, through my girls’ leadership class, when our teacher presented Alpha and Christine to the group. Both Alpha and Christine came in to talk about Help Change My City and what they are doing to help the community as well how we were able to participate and volunteer to help our community grow. The first event they mentioned was Eats On The Streets as well as Warming Up The Eastside which my school was happy to host last year! Ever since then I’ve been trying to attend most (if not all) of the events Help Change My City facilitates.

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Personally, I have now participated in many activities with Help Change My City, as mentioned Eats On The Streets and Warming Up The Eastside as well as Monday is Give Day and the Youth Engagement Gala. This year I also volunteered at the Little Black Dress Gala and joined Help Change My City’s Youth Government. One of the main events that I will never forget is when a group of friends along with my sister and I attended Eats On The Streets. We were walking as a group handing out the sandwich bags and by complete coincidence my sister gave out a bag on which she had written the phrase “you matter”.  In a sarcastic tone, the homeless lady who received the lunch from her replied back “do I matter?” as she took the bag . We approached her and said, “Of course, you matter!” and at that moment her eyes filled with tears. The reason that I think this moment impacted me the most was because I find that people sometimes forget that many of the people who live on the streets are not there by choice. Most people are there because they’ve had bad luck or bad incidents happen and ever since then I learned to look at my community differently, and in a more positive light.

One of the many reasons I decided to join Youth Government was because it seemed to be a fun and interactive way to continue to learn to give back to the community while gaining perspective and ideas from other amazing youth in different communities. Having the opportunity to work alongside Alpha and Christine has given me confidence in giving back to my community and helps constantly remind me that giving back is not a simple donation, gift or handout, but rather it’s about a simple action.. It’s about giving someone your time, it’s about making a difference in our communities.

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Youth Government not only reminds me to give back to my community but to my school as well and over the past couple of months, I’ve really been taking that to heart. A conversation was brought up at a Youth Government meeting by Alpha suggesting that we start something called ‘Lunch With Us. The idea of Lunch With Us is to basically take your time once a month or once a week (or whenever you have time) and instead of sitting with your normal friends or your normal group during the lunch hour you would go and sit with someone you normally don’t sit with or someone who seems to be alone or having a rough day or simply just needs someone to talk to. Personally, I thought it was a great idea. A couple days later I realized that one of the new students in our school had been eating lunch in the library by himself so I decided that I was going to introduce myself to him and ask him if he would have lunch with me. Luckily enough he said yes and he began to tell me about himself, his family, and where they had come from. He mentioned he was from Syria and said that life there for him was rough and not easy. He was thrilled that he had found a home here. Ever since then we have become friends and our friendship continues to grow. One of the main things I’ve learned was that it’s so easy to make someone’s day just a little bit better and brighter and all it takes is a simple introduction and time in your day. After experiencing that I continue to have lunch with others or invite others to have lunch with me and some friends.

I believe that by giving back to our communities and schools we begin to understand what other people around us are going through and where they come from. It also helps us understand the different challenges that people in our very own community or school are facing on a daily basis and it helps me understand how we are able to help them. In addition, It helps us learn about our community better as a whole and frankly it also brightens our days! Helping your community or your school improve is also helping you because you’re surrounding yourself with wonderful people who you know you’ve helped. Like Denzel Washington once said “At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished… it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better; it’s about what you’ve given back.”