At Citywise we want to see all young people thrive and make a positive contribution to society. And that’s exactly what seventeen year-old Mary Walker – one of our junior mentors – got the opportunity to do on Thursday 2nd March when she met Andy Burnham MP.
Andy Burnham is the front-runner candidate for the new position of Mayor of Greater Manchester, due to be elected on the 5th May 2017. As part of Citywise’s involvement with Greater Manchester Citizens, Mary was invited to a small meeting where we presented the demands of ordinary people and asked what he will do to meet those needs once elected. Speaking on behalf of young people from all over Greater Manchester, Mary powerfully made the case for greater provision of opportunities for young people:
“I am an aspiring musician, but one of the main things that has held me back over the years is not talent and dedication, but the opportunity to initially even begin learning an instrument and then being able to afford the costs that come along with it. Opportunities like learning an instrument or joining a sports team are things that allow young people to make friends, find out who they truly are and who they want to become as adults. Lack of opportunities in my opinion and experience makes young people more likely to get themselves into trouble, or become un-motivated as they aren’t actively putting effort into something constructive.
Opportunities like learning an instrument or joining a sports team are things that allow young people to make friends, find out who they truly are and who they want to become
Youth opportunities are seen as rare luxuries these days, but that shouldn’t be the case. They help children to grow and learn the value of the rewards of hard work, and only through increasing the opportunities available to our youth will we be able to teach them to value their education – be it in sports or in sewing. The ignorance of the youth is a common topic amongst the adults in our society, but you talk to any young person about something they are passionate about and you see a completely different side to this stereotype. I believe funding more opportunities is a way in which we can start to raise a generation of young people who don’t take for granted what they are given.”
Mary’s speech provoked a spontaneous round of applause from the roomful of adults: professional trade union leaders, activist and aspiring politicians. And Andy Burnham himself thanked her for putting him on the spot and speaking so passionately on behalf of her peers. He acknowledged that young people are often ignored by politicians for the simple reason that they can’t vote, meaning policies are designed to appeal to core voting demographics – mainly those who are older and wealthier. But he has made young people a core part of his manifesto, launched yesterday, by promising free bus travel for 16-18 year olds across the region.
It’s not every day a young person speaks truth to power and achieves breakthrough for ordinary people, but #thecityneedsheroes and Mary is certainly one of them!