Privilege and opportunity are two things Shealah Hart thinks of often when her mind shifts to the Boys and Girls Club of Canada.
A 19-year-old from Northern Arm, Hart has been involved with the club in the neighbouring community of Botwood for the last 11 years.
Hart started attending the Botwood club when she was eight years old.
There, she took part in the after school and summery day camp programs. When she aged out of those, Hart stayed involved with the club and started getting involved in the evening programs that focused on a variety of subjects.
She got involved with Girls Decide!, which dealt with female empowerment, a mental health initiative called Mind Your Own Business and Homework Haven, amongst other programs.
This is the privilege she speaks of.
Hart credits these with teaching her that paying it forward is an important attitude to have and that volunteering can have a positive impact in her community.
From there, she was selected to be a part of a program that allowed her to job shadow a member of Parliament.
These chances to attend club business outside of her normal parameters gave Hart the perspective she needed to decide she wanted to take on a different role with the group.
She applied to be a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Canada National Youth Council.
It is a group where members received training in their areas of choosing, interact with professionals about issues that involve youth around the country and help plan the biennial national meeting for the club.
That is the opportunity.
“Regardless of the activity or event, I learned something about myself, enhanced a skill, strengthened a relationship and was able to make a positive difference in some way,” she told the Central Voice. “Looking deeper into my experiences I believe it is the friendships and the memories created that I will cherish the most.”
As a youth, it can be rare to find a group that leads them to what they want to do in life.
Yet, that is what Hart found with the Boys and Girls Club. It helped her realize she wants to make positive impacts in people’s lives and looks forward to being challenged.
With that in mind, Hart is looking forward to a career in social work. To that end, she plans on attending Memorial University in the fall to continue her post-secondary studies with a focus on the social work program.
While she can’t point to any one piece of advice she was given to help her make the most of her opportunity with the national youth council, Hart does have advice for anyone looking to get involved.
It involves believing in yourself, pushing others to be the best versions of themselves and never pass up the chance to explore new avenues.
In her work, she hopes to be someone who can help other youth reach their full potential.
“Just as I was inspired, I hope to inspire youth to challenge themselves, just as I was encouraged, I hope to encourage, just as I was given opportunity, I hope to provide opportunity and in doing so, given as was given to me,” she said.