Haleema Ahmed is a second-year biomedical sciences student at York University who has created her path to success by advocating for social issues and youth perspectives through writing. Despite the many challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought for Ahmed, it has also motivated her work.
First published in the Toronto Star with a piece on being a teen during the pandemic, this would inspire her to continue writing articles and explore new interests. Today, she is reaping the benefits of her hard work in her second year as a part of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council (PMYC).
However, none of this would have been possible without the encouragement from her English teacher. “This all kind of started when one of my English teachers said that I wrote a really good essay, and said I should try publishing it. That was what kind of triggered me to use my voice for the first time,” explains Ahmed.
“That teacher just saying to me, ‘this is really good, they’re gonna publish you,’ was the reason I wrote that article for Toronto Star. Everything kind of snowballed after that. It is insane the power that a really encouraging teacher can do for you.”
During her first year on the council, due to restrictions caused by COVID-19, Ahmed and the PMYC weren’t able to hold any in-person meetings. Nonetheless, this didn’t stop her opinion and practical input from being heard.
Through monthly virtual meetings with government agencies and groups, she provided valuable perspectives on pressing matters, such as, improvements to vaccine rollout among young people. Ahmed and the PMYC also met with Prime Minister Trudeau online to discuss what they would like to see prioritised in Canada’s budget.
Speaking on what she’s enjoyed the most while being a part of the PMYC, Ahmed says, “My favourite part is being able to look at a document or look at a program and tell them specifically what I think could be improved to accommodate more diverse groups, and to make it more accessible — I really like that aspect of the council.”
The PMYC’s first in-person meeting since the pandemic was held in Ottawa during August 2022. This time, Ahmed had the chance to meet with various government agencies and the Prime Minister, face-to-face, to discuss “issues of priority.” Ahmed is hoping to have more in-person gatherings, but also expects a lot more online meetings as her voice continues to be heard.
Despite being a science student, Ahmed is active and interested in all different areas, from journalism to politics and policy, and says that, “What’s been interesting for me is linking the two together,” Ahemed continues.
“Ultimately, I am interested in a career in healthcare and I really like the idea of linking that to large-scale problems, like national health, which I like to advocate for in the council. Medicine and politics, healthcare and politics — they’re not separate things. Looking to the long term, I really want to link health solutions and improving Canada’s healthcare system to that political aspect.”