She normally attends Faith Academy in the North End, but Abigail Theano-Pudwill is getting much of her education in Ottawa these days.
In March, the Grade 12 student travelled to Ottawa for the Forum for Young Canadians, a weeklong session where high school students learn about the Canadian government, meet MPs and senators and discuss issues important to Canadians.
From May 4 to 9, Theano-Pudwill, 17, was back in our nation’s capital for the National Student Commonwealth Forum, an annual conference where Canadian high school students learn about the Commonwealth of Nations and Canada’s role in it.
In the Commonwealth Forum, participants were placed in two-person delegations, each representing a Commonwealth country. They spent the week learning about the country and the Commonwealth in relation to a theme, this year’s being "food security."
Theano-Pudwill and her partner represented Tanzania, focusing on the issue of land grabbing in the East African country. Land grabbing is the acquisition of large pieces of land in developing countries by corporations, governments or individuals.
Theano-Pudwill and her partner were then tasked with passing a resolution in a model Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting.
"We the people of the Commonwealth resolve that any investing corporations or countries be restricted with how much land they’re able to land grab and give a portion of the produce, to the discretion of the country, back into the country," said Theano-Pudwill, quoting the resolution.
"Basically, if you’re going to land grab, make sure you don’t take too much and give some back to the local community."
During the Commonwealth Forum, Theano-Pudwill also had the chance to meet MPs, debate issues in the Senate Chamber and discuss food security issues with High Commissioners of the Commonwealth.
"You just learn so much and you’re in a room with people who want to discuss things that you care about, who want to go deeper in a conversation and talk about how we can change the world and how we can help the people around us," Theano-Pudwill said.
"It was eye-opening to see how much youth can actually care about the world around them."
Theano-Pudwill, who will be attending criminal justice and psychology classes this fall at the University of Winnipeg, said she became interested in law, justice and politics from watching CSI, Law & Order and Legally Blonde.
"Then we started debating in school and I was like ‘This is it,’" Theano-Pudwill said. "I love talking, arguing, winning (laughs), making sure we get to the bottom of a problem, just talking it out and working together."
Theano-Pudwill came to Canada from Haiti at age 11. She said she hopes to build a good foundation in Canada so she can one day return to Haiti to help out her homeland. She said she’s grateful for everything Canada has provided.
"Canada has taken me in and said ‘Hey, you might not be originally from here but we still think of you as a part of our country, that you can be a difference in the country that you now live in.’ This is my home," Theano-Pudwill said.