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January 29, 2020

Leading in the Community

Castle News

On a late fall day, Grade 8 student McKenna arrived at Queen’s Park in Toronto. She was about to embark on what she calls the most incredible two weeks of her life. “When I walked in for orientation I just knew it was going to be awesome,” said McKenna.

McKenna was selected to participate in Ontario’s Legislative Page Program – a program that only about 150 Grade 7 and 8 students province-wide experience each year. “I got a call and they said I made it! I was so over the moon happy, I was crying,” she exclaimed.

Joined by 25 other students, McKenna’s two weeks were packed with exciting duties. Her days included orders of the day, bills, motions and petitions where McKenna was tasked with delivering notes to Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) and Clerks. “We had to memorize the names of over 100 MPPs, their riding and party,” she said. “It was definitely a challenge but it was really fun.”

Her favourite part of the day was question period. “That’s when the Leader of the Opposition and the Government House Leader debate and I thought that was really interesting,” McKenna said.

This unique experience has sparked a greater interest in politics for McKenna, who’s now thinking about combining it with her passion for marketing and potentially going into political communications or campaigning in the future.

Students chosen for the Page Program are outgoing, high-achieving and a community leader – all traits McKenna exhibits. So much so, she received the Mayor’s Youth Award in November for her community involvement. “Getting the award was really fun and I feel so happy and thankful for the recognition,” she said.

McKenna was nominated for the award not only for representing Whitby at Queen’s Park, but also for her work with the homeless community. Since 2018, McKenna has collected, assembled and distributed hundreds of personal hygiene kits for those in need across Durham Region.

In the first year, McKenna donated 500 kits, coined Penny Packs, to homeless youth. Last month, she decided to focus on female hygiene packs. “I wanted to jump into a new demographic to see what I could do in that space and I thought I could make a huge difference with female packs,” she said. McKenna donated 300 Penny Packs to Durham Outreach Program, Lakeridge Health Foundation and Durham Mental Health Services. Next year, McKenna’s interested in donating her packs to another group in need and will create gender-neutral kits.

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