Our next featured alumnus is Sheliza Kassam, who, during her time at Youth Central between 2009 – 2014, was involved with the Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC), Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC),
Youth of Distinction Awards (YODA), Youth Week, and Youth Are Awesome (YAA) committees.
“I never really used to volunteer in my community. I was never really engaged,” Sheliza explains, “The first catalyst to my volunteer experience was definitely at Youth Volunteer Corps.”
She recalls at her second-ever project with YVC, she was painting children’s faces and distinctly remembers that each child that she met had their own story and a reason behind the character or figure that they wanted her to paint them as. Sheliza found it very interesting to see their perspectives, and she looks back on it as a “remarkable” experience.
After that project, it was an opportunity for me to realize that volunteering was fun. [Volunteering] was an opportunity for me to meet people that I wanted to help and make a difference to.
For Sheliza, her most valuable experiences came with her time sitting on the MYC committee, where she was a co-chair. During her time with MYC, she was involved with piloting the Mayor For A Day project, which has been a success right from its inaugural year.
“I had never really realized that youth had the power to make such a tangible impact. I definitely think that the Mayor’s Youth Council gave me some perspective that youth have a say.”
Since graduating from Western Canada High School and leaving Youth Central, Sheliza currently sits on the Chemical Engineering Society’s council through the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering. Her current volunteer role has shifted more toward event planning and organization, but she still claims that she, “definitely got all of these skills from being a Youth Central volunteer.”
Youth Central has really helped me learn how to work with diverse people and with a team. I think that’s a skill that I learned as a Youth Central volunteer and that it’s something you can take anywhere.
A prime example of how the “spirit of volunteering” lives on with Sheliza would be her personal endeavours in the non-profit sector. In January of 2013, she founded Children’s Birthday Miracles, a charitable organization aiming to ensure that underprivileged children have the opportunity to have a birthday party to call their own. Sheliza recalls that when CBM first started, “We didn’t have any funds, I didn’t know what to do, but I was really passionate.”
Instead of letting this roadblock get in her way, Sheliza applied for the Youth Foundation Grant and received $2500, which became the basis upon which CBM was founded and how her passion became a reality.
Sheliza is currently working towards a degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Calgary, with plans to graduate in 2020. Upon completion of her degree, she plans to pursue a career in project management and oversight in engineering infrastructure development.
Finally, Sheliza would like to offer to current and future Youth Central volunteers with this piece of wisdom:
Take every opportunity that comes your way and build off of it. I would also say that if you’re involved in a Youth Central committee, and you have an idea on how to improve a program, do it. Get the right people, find the right resources, and bring your passion to life. Youth Central wants to hear your voice.