The author, Niara van Gaalen, at the 2018 Hillside Festival during her summer internship with Alternatives Journal.
Like most students, I needed a job for the summer after high school. I was lucky enough to land an interview at Alternatives Journal, Canada’s national environmental media charity. I was happy because this seemed like a job that I could genuinely enjoy, especially because the 47-year old magazine understands, as do most youth, that climate change is the most pressing issue of our times.
The strange thing was that Marcia Ruby, who was interviewing me, kept saying that she thought she recognized me, although we were both certain that we had never officially met. Finally, she realised that she recognized me from the Kitchener market, where I used to busk during high school. In Kitchener-Waterloo, my hometown, the local politicians love to talk about how much the region is growing and changing, and is how we are set to become a mini-Toronto. But at times like my interview, one realises that Kitchener is still very much a small community, especially in the downtown area.
It’s nice to know that journalistic integrity actually exists, because as someone coming of age in the Trump era, I almost thought it was just a myth."
I was offered the position of Web Intern, which I accepted immediately, and I started the following week. Now, three weeks later, I have already learned a lot about how a non-profit organisation like A\J runs, and about journalism and journalistic integrity. It’s nice to know that journalistic integrity actually exists, because as someone coming of age in the Trump era, I almost thought it was just a myth. It feels very good to be fact-checking an article or blogpost, knowing that we are doing our best to provide accurate and factual information. Although social media and the internet have changed the face of journalism, there is, more than ever, a real need for clear and factual information. That is especially so when it relates to the environment, a topic and an issue that is muddled with opinions and uncertainty.
I am also realising that there is a great need for jobs in which people feel that their skills and contributions matter, and where they are trusted to work hard and perform to the best of their abilities. Next year, when I head to the University of Waterloo to study the discipline of architecture, I will be enrolled in the co-op program. The University of Waterloo, Conestoga College, and most local high schools offer co-op as part of their education. Sometimes I wonder if Waterloo Region is one of the last places where it is possible to get quality work experience at a young age. Perhaps it is this faith in the abilities of their employees that drives the start-up culture of the region.
Sometimes I wonder if Waterloo Region is one of the last places where it is possible to get quality work experience at a young age."
Of course, my job at A\J has been made possible in part by the Canadian Summer Job program. Although some have criticized the program for its employer eligibility requirements, as a non-partisan person, I do think that the basic intent of the program—to create jobs for youth—is a good one. The Canadian Summer Job program made a great first job possible for someone who has never been on a payroll. A\J needs interns, students need jobs, the government wants a low unemployment rate - it’s a win-win for everyone.
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