Nfld. & Labrador

Classroom wellness a priority for St. John's student on PM's youth council

A St. John’s high schooler wants to improve the mental health and wellness of his classmates — and young people across Canada — with some help from Justin Trudeau.

Conor McIsaac hopes to improve mental health, employment equality

Waterford Valley High student Conor MacIsaac is one of eight young Canadians chosen to be part of the Prime Minister's Youth Council. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

A St. John's high schooler wants to improve the mental health and wellness of his classmates — and young people across Canada — with some help from Justin Trudeau.

Conor McIsaac, a student entering Grade 12 at Waterford Valley High, has been selected as part of the Prime Minister's Youth Council, a group of young people helping to advise the prime minister on issues facing young Canadians.

One of the first things McIsaac says he'd like to work on is offering supports to keep students healthy and keep them coming to school.

If we can get everyone going to school, we can really help them out.- Conor McIsaac

"Tied to mental health and wellness is attendance, so if you're not going to school due to your grades or if you don't feel comfortable going to school, that's really having an effect on your mental health," he said.

"The first step is going to school, the second step is getting something out of it, so if we can get everybody going to school, we can really help them out."

McIsaac said after working with the Vera Perlin Society this summer, he also wants to work on employment equity for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"It's opened my eyes to the type of incredible people you get to meet and work with as clients," he said.

"These people are such phenomenal workers, and I'd just like to give them the opportunity to have the same jobs that we do."

Trip to the North

McIsaac has already met with the prime minister and the youth council on a trip to Iqaluit.

He took part in meetings and community outreach and got some face time with Trudeau — both in the boardroom and in the lunch line.

"It was a buffet, he was actually in front of me. It took me about 30 seconds to work my way up to what I was going to say," said McIsaac.

"But I ended up bringing up the Regatta.… He said, 'I hope I get to see you there. Hopefully you'll get to come out and say hello,' and I was very much taken aback, but I said, 'I'll do my best.'" 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with plenty of people while he was in town for the Royal St. John's Regatta — including McIsaac. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

And McIsaac and Trudeau did meet up Wednesday while the prime minister was in St. John's.

"I'd say it was a 10-minute chat with him, just welcoming him, talking to him about the Regatta," he said. "Really, just a genuine chat, it was quite interesting."

McIsaac will now take part in eight meetings over the next two years, and said he wants to serve as a voice for other young people across the country.

He joins Donovan Taplin as the only youths from Newfoundland and Labrador to serve on the council.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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