Ambassadors from the 2017 SMART START Youth Summit share their stories
Written by ILANA REIMER
Khalid Egeh, 20, generally prefers YouTube over TV—his favourite YouTuber being Casey Neistat. A first-generation Somalian, Khalid was born in Toronto, and moved to Ottawa when he was six months old.
Now, he’s studying at Carleton University, and is passionate about public speaking. He picked up this interest about a year ago, and speaks on many topics, such as racism—using his story to inspire high school students and others. Although school has been getting in the way recently, Khalid is also in the process of writing a book on his life story, told through the perspective of other characters.
Whether it’s working out or travelling the world—something Khalid hopes to do one day—he is not content with staying still. He sees that there is often a disconnect between the change that governments promote and change that communities actually wants to see happen. “When I create change, I want it to be for the community by the community,” he said.
Khalid wants to find ways to represent people and have their voices be heard, and has already taken steps towards this goal. Last year, he was an ambassador for YLAC’s SMART START Youth Summit. Since May 2017, he has been on the Premier’s Council of Ontario, which gives advice on issues that affect youth, and works within local communities to ensure that youth are involved in government decision-making.
However, Khalid has had his own share of challenges. “I grew up in low income housing,” he said. “So a lot of the people I looked up to were selling drugs and doing things that I think today are not the best things. But I looked up to them because I knew they had a lot of money.”
Gradually, Khalid realized that he needed to take his life in his own hands if he wanted to become successful. Over the past five years he began going to the gym and lost weight; he also started focusing more on school and caring more about his family. “I haven’t had the opportunities that are offered to a lot of people,” he said. “So for me, I’ve learned to be a go-getter and to become more persistent.”
He hopes that now he can impact the lives of others by being a role model and encouraging them to make better life decisions. “From a young age I’ve experienced a lot of racism and injustices,” Khalid said. “And now that I’m where I am in my life, I feel like I’m doing a dis-service if I don’t look back to where I started and see how I can help others out.”
One of the ways Khalid found to empower younger generations was through becoming an ambassador at the 2017 SMART START Youth Summit. He described the summit as a great opportunity for youth—especially those who are more vulnerable, since it shows them that there are people looking out for them.
Something he personally took away from last year’s summit was that you don’t need influential business names or tons of people to create something valuable. “You just need a few determined individuals who have a clear goal and a clear mindset to create change in the community and impact youth’s lives. It’s possible,” he said.
Khalid often thinks about where he wants to be in ten years. Of course, there are many unknowns, but he does want to finish his degree and be financially free to care for his family and community. He also wants to experience and learn about different cultures and people. “I don’t want to stay stagnant,” he said. “I want to keep growing and learning until the day I die.”
He also wants to do what he can to shape a better world, which he defines as a place where kids can wake up in the morning without worrying where their next meal is coming from, where they’re going to sleep at night, or whether they’ll be bullied at school or receive a worse education based on the colour of their skin or where they’re coming from.
YLAC core team has helped to influence how Khalid views taking action and responsibility for change. “I’ve learned a lot and I definitely feel like I’m able to be more engaged in my community than I have been because of the core values that YLAC embodies and how they’ve been implemented in my life.”
Interested in becoming an ambassador for the 2018 summit? Apply to become an ambassador now.