A Ripon Grammar School student has been elected to help give the youth of North Yorkshire a national voice.
As a new deputy member of the UK Youth Parliament (DMYP), Anika Schwarze-Chintapatla will be representing young people in the York and North Yorkshire areas to ensure their views are listened to by decision makers, right up to the highest levels of government.
The areas where she is hoping to help make positive changes include homelessness and mental health services for young people, both issues which have been shown to concern teenagers throughout the UK.
During her one-year term of office Anika, 17, from Myton-on-Swale, will meet MPs and local councillors and will be involved in running campaigns, organising events, lobbying for change, appearing in the media and making speeches.
Passionate about making a difference to young people, Anika will also have the opportunity to take part in a debate about the issues which matter most to young people, to be held in the House of Commons in November.
Studying chemistry, biology, history, economics and maths at A-level, Anika says that, since the EU referendum, politics is something she has become increasingly interested in: “It was the first major hard-hitting event that made me realise I am going to be impacted by all the decisions made in government - and decisions made by us.
“I think it's even more important that people my age get engaged now so that when they do have a say, they know what their opinions are and how their vote will affect the country.
“It's also fascinating to think about how we are influenced to think in certain ways, and the methods people use to try and assert that influence over us.”
As well as helping to engage young people in policy and democracy, Anika and her fellow young parliamentarians will now be developing their own manifesto with the aim of helping to improve the lives of their peer group and effect positive social change.
Run by the British Youth Council, the Youth Parliament – made up of 600 MYPs and deputies from throughout the UK – will be deciding which issues to place on its annual Make Your Mark campaign agenda, with voting for the 2020 campaign due to take place between August and October.
Anika who, like all members of the Youth Parliament, must remain politically neutral, explained how 1.1million young people voted on key campaign issues, including homelessness and mental health provision, last year.
Once the Youth Parliament has debated the top five issues raised this year, elected members will vote on the national campaign topics, which will then be taken on by youth councils across the country.
Anika will be continuing to work closely with York’s 25-strong Youth Council where, as a member over the past year, she has already been involved in helping develop a mental health awards scheme in schools and in collaborations with homeless young people.
Elected to her new position by young people from schools throughout the constituency, she said: “My work with the Youth Council to date has already been hugely rewarding so taking on this new role as a DYMP is a very exciting prospect.”