Over 200 young Ontarians applied, but only 13 students were accepted to be part of the Ontario Legislative Assembly Page Program. One of those students was Sandwich West Public School student, Ben Selmi.
In 2019, Selmi went on a family trip through Ontario. During their trip, they stopped for a tour of the Ontario Legislative Building, where they heard of an opportunity for Selmi to apply for once he was old enough.
This year, the time finally came, and Selmi sent in his application to become a Legislative Page. When he was notified of his acceptance, Selmi said he was overjoyed.
“I’m hoping to one day be in politics, so getting a good idea of how legislature functions and how things are generally run was a really cool experience,” said Selmi. “In the future, if I go into federal politics or provincial politics, this experience will help me navigate through how it all works … It was a very eye-opening experience that really helped me learn a lot.”
According to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario website, students who exercise outgoing, high-achieving, community-involved traits and practice responsibility and leadership get selected for the program. Legislative Pages also have the opportunity to meet key parliamentary and political figures.
Selmi said he thinks it’s important for youth to be a part of politics because they can bring a different perspective to the table during discussions.
“Young people can impact politics as well, maybe not as much as adults, but we can still make a difference,” said Selmi.
Selmi’s parents, Barbara Link and Patrick Selmi agreed with Selmi. Link said having youth as a part of programs like this helps bring a new understanding to the political process.
“People get a little frustrated with politics,” said Link. “But to see there some very passionate people on both sides of the legislature, it was very helpful to understand that whole process and actually see it in action. I think it’s really important to be involved like that. The 13 Pages all got to be very good friends, and they still are talking to each other from across Ontario. They all had different perspectives and when they weren’t in the legislature, they had civics classes, and they got to go on field trips. It just was a really amazing experience, I think, for the participants.”
Sandwich West Public School Principal Kathleen Fioret said she thinks the Page Program is a great way to help youth find more ways to get involved in their communities.
“Especially at this age, I feel like students need to realize they too have a voice,” said Fioret. “They can gain the motivation to make positive changes. [Selmi] has really developed a sense of empathy and compassion, he is young but he is very wise and we need more kids like him to be able to fix the destructive discourse we’re seeing in our world and make it into something positive.”
Selmi’s Grade 8 teacher, Madame Filomena Yamashita said her class is presenting on the career paths they plan on pursuing, and this experience will be part of Selmi’s career presentation. She hopes Selmi’s experience will help inspire others to apply for the Page Program as well.
“Ben always showed a love for politics,” said Yamashita. “Since his experience, he has more of a direction he knows he wants to head towards. I think now he can picture himself being in that role as a future career.”
Near the end of the experience, the Pages voted two of their fellow members to be awarded Valedictorians for the Pages.
One of the students voted in, was Selmi – an achievement he said he is very proud of.
For more information on the Legislative Assembly Page Program, visit their website.