After watching a school presentation in Grade 9 about cyberbullying, Mira Buckle found herself thinking about how youth encounter so much more online.
“When your parents give you a bike, they teach you how to ride the bike … but when they give you a cellphone, or any type of computer or iPad, they don't really teach you how to use it. It's just kind of like they expect you to just figure out how to use it (yourself),” said the 16-year-old from Corner Brook, N.L.
Tying this in with her love of theatre, she wrote and directed the 20-minute interactive play about digital citizenship, teaching youth important information about digital safety and being a positive digital citizen as technology becomes more essential, through a series of skits and a mini-game show. With other student castmates, and a $1,500 TakingItGlobal grant, the play was well received at local elementary schools, with requests for more in the region’s schools over the next two years.
These performances were cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions, but instead, with the help of a Passion to Purpose grant from The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award – Canada, Buckle is creating an iBook using pictures and video clips of the play. This format will make the interactive play accessible to students even after the actors graduate.
One part of the quiz asks viewers if they think a photo has been altered, and the answers can be surprising, said Buckle. Her goal by having youth perform is for the kids to find the information memorable and relatable. Usually, adults teaching cyber safety have not lived through the same digital experiences that youth go through today.
“(It’s different) hearing it from youth saying … to be safe with your information and safe and positive with the way you act,” she said. “Things you put online are permanent, and that's something that's different than just saying something to a friend in a schoolyard.”
Buckle loves performing, which she says has helped develop her self-esteem, memorization skills and be empathetic — all components of her many community involvements, including the Corner Brook Youth Advisory Committee she started this year.
Buckle first learned about youth councils through Shad Canada’s summer program, which prepares youth for social and economic issues, at McGill University in 2019. She got Mayor Jim Parsons and Coun. Linda Chaisson on board, and by January, they had compiled a team of local youth.
Though COVID-19 put a pause on some initial plans, the council executed successful initiatives this summer, with more on the way. They created over 20 signs with messages of positivity for the community and planted potatoes, green beans and sugar snap peas in a plot in the new community garden. The produce was donated to Xavier House, a care home for adults with mental illness.
“It's like all of the youth in Corner Brook are saying ‘stay kind’ or ‘pause and enjoy the moment,’” she said about the positivity campaign. “We want it to be that the youth of Corner Brook are here, and they care about you.”
Whether it’s sharing ideas with the youth council, students at school or other Indigenous youth in the Qalipu Youth Network, Buckle is passionate about working with others. Grade 12 keeps her busy, but she said that having reliable teammates, maintaining a schedule and having free time with friends on the weekends makes it work.
“I find it easy to balance because it's all stuff I like to do,” she said. “I think that's essential, finding things that you're actually passionate about, so it doesn't feel like work. You don't feel like there's a burden on you to have to do it every day.”
Buckle is interested in pursuing the humanities field and is passionate about opening opportunities for youth.
“I've had so many amazing mentors, but I wish I had when I was really young someone looking at me saying, ‘You can get involved and here are ways how to,’” she said. “Because, unfortunately, I guess I kind of had to make some of those experiences for myself … I'd really like there to just be more opportunity for youth to get involved in the future.”
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