Providing a Political Outlet for Youth

Jake Karpouzis is a 17-year-old from Toronto, Ontario and the President and Founder of Youth Political Assembly. The Youth Political Assembly is a non-profit organization with the mission to educate and empower youth to become politically motivated and involved in government for a better tomorrow. Jake founded the YPA late last year because he felt that youth really did not have any outlets to properly educate themselves on politics, connect with their political leaders, or engage in opportunities that would help propel them towards a career in government. 

How did you become interested in politics? What advice would you offer to youth interested in becoming more politically minded? 

I first became interested in politics through watching the news with my family every morning. What started as background noise quickly became an important part of my day, as the issues our politicians deal with (while they may seem inconsequential or even boring) affect ourselves or people we know. I solidified my political bearings both through some courses I took in high school, but mostly through conversation. By speaking with peers, friends, coworkers and family, I found others convincing me of their opinions while I was able to convince others of my opinions. If you want to become politically minded, you need to gather that background knowledge - watch the news, do some research of your own, and listen to what your politicians have to say.

Speak with others about your opinions and theirs, and never be afraid to ask questions or change your mind. 

Why do you think it’s important for youth to be educated and involved in politics? 

Politics and government are precisely how we decide how our society will function and what our role in that society will be.

Becoming educated and involved in politics helps to ensure that your voice and opinion will be heard, and that you will have a better understanding of the decisions your elected officials make for you.

When the good-hearted are uneducated, the evil-hearted who are educated can take advantage. Becoming involved in politics is important because it lets you stand your ground and advocate for the social issues you find important. I find that youth take the most pride and are the most motivated to make the world a better place. 

How do you cope with political disagreements?

From what I have experienced in Canadian society, it is common for people to steer clear of discussing politics out of civility and to avoid disagreement. While I understand that this sentiment is well intentioned, it is attitudes like this which can be detrimental to democracy. The very purpose of discussing politics is to attempt to persuade others on your opinion. It is important to go into political discourse with the understanding that the person you are talking to may not agree with you and may not even be open to changing their minds. If you encounter this political disagreement, you shouldn’t become disillusioned. Rather, focus on strengthening your argument and try to convince others to change their minds in a civil manner.

What sources do you look to for reliable information?

All news articles are written with at least some bias. For Canadian news, I find that the National Post, the Globe & Mail, and CBC are often the most reliable sources of political information. For news from the United States, I look at the New York Times and Politico. Sometimes, you have to read between the lines of news articles. For clear policy information and statistics, it is always best to look at government websites and reputable organizations such as WHO, UNICEF, and the UN.

How do you reach out to MPs for your Virtual Town Halls? What advice would you offer to youth daunted to contact their local MPs, MPPs, MLAs, etc?

First off, never be nervous to get in contact with your elected officials. They come from your community, and might even live in your neighborhood. If you have questions for your MP, MPP, MLA, or MNA, reach out to them in a clear and concise manner, and make sure you make it known in the first few lines of your letter or email that you live in their riding (an electoral district of Canada). Politicians are very busy people and it might take them (or one of their office assistants) a while to get back to you. But remember that they work to serve you and your community. Also, you can send a letter to any elected official in Canada for free and without any postage fees. So it might even serve you well to contact them the old-fashioned way.

What are good qualities of a team member? How were you able to grow your team and find the right people to work with?

Any good team is good because they communicate well. If you are trying to grow a team of your own, find people who are well-spoken or well-written.

People who communicate often and in a clear and professional manner are often the most efficient and most valuable team members.

Put it out on your social media channels that you are looking to grow your organization’s team, and you might be surprised at how many people want to get involved. Find the applications that speak the most to you, and don’t be afraid to take a chance on somebody.

What was a challenge you faced as the President and Founder of the Youth Political Assembly? How were you able to overcome it?

A few months ago, after my team had done the amazing job of growing our organization rapidly and surpassing 3,500 followers on Instagram, our Instagram account had been mysteriously deleted. We are still not sure why this happened, but it was a big challenge for us as our entire organization really operated through our Instagram account. We had no choice but to restart and rebuild. I decided that this was not necessarily a setback, but an opportunity. We overcame this challenge by choosing to rebuild our brand in a better way, with our entire team having been more experienced and educated in our mission and our purpose.

Where do you see the Youth Political Assembly in 5 years? What about 10 years?

In 5 to 10 years, I won’t be considered a ‘youth’ anymore. Regardless, I hope that in 5-10 years, the YPA will become an organization that is recognized nationally. There is so much potential for the YPA to grow and expand over the coming years to become more involved in communities, elections, political life, and the lives of youth. While I may choose to one day leave my organization in the hands of the next generation of youth leaders, I am confident that the YPA will continue to grow across the country (and even across the world) in a way that will benefit and educate youth on politics and government.

Who is your favorite political pundit and why?

Don Lemon of CNN is probably my favorite political pundit. I have watched Lemon’s segment with my family for years, and his calm yet strong demeanor and inspiring life story makes him a great speaker and television host to watch.


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