Youth Central Alumni Profile: Cristina Zaganelli

Youth Central Alumni Profile: Cristina Zaganelli

To mark this milestone Youth Central is profiling 25 of its alumni throughout the years. Youth Central’s Youth Are Awesome (YAA) program is helping out by interviewing and profiling the alumni. This article is written by Hafsah Syed, one of the YAA junior editors.

Cristina Zaganelli is a conscientious individual who enriched Youth Central’s community in the early 1990s. She was one of the first members of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) (now the Mayor’s Youth Council) and also played integral roles in the Calgary Youth Foundation and Youth Volunteer Corps. A recipient of the YWCA Young Woman Of Distinction award, Cristina’s contributions to Calgary’s community have long been valued and appreciated.

Cristina revealed that her time with Youth Central provided her various opportunities to do what she valued, which was to promote youth voice. She advocated for child-friendly spaces by assessing various facilities and venues in Calgary and continued to express her voice through her involvement at the MYAC. When asked about her most cherished memory at Youth Central, Cristina “[remembers] sitting in a radio studio, doing an on-air interview, and was asked if we [youth] were actually making a difference. [She] remembers replying ‘Well, it got me on the radio didn’t it?!’” That became Cristina’s profound “moment as a teenager to show many adults that youth had a voice, a reasonable set of values and opinions, and that we could be active participants in politics and civic action”.

“I know how important it is to keep kids engaged in their communities, ensure they have adults who care about them, give them meaningful activities to do, and allow them to demonstrate their value. My time at Youth Central did absolutely all of the above,” Cristina said.

Today, Cristina embodies these principles in her life as a mother and as a Nurse Practitioner. She completed her Nursing undergraduate degree from the University of Calgary. After two years of employment, her love and passion for the field of nursing drove her to complete her graduate studies at the Dalhousie University. Today she works with vulnerable and marginalized individuals, “working on continuing to define and advocate for the Nurse Practitioner role in mental health/addictions.” Giving back to the community has remained a strong belief of Cristina’s, and she is adamant on expanding her role as a Nurse to “better [address] the various addiction issues our community faces.”

When asked for a piece of advice for current and future youth volunteers of Youth Central, Cristina says: “Meet lots of people. Try lots of new things. Find out what you’re truly passionate about and build a life around that. Don’t just do what your friends want you to do or what well-meaning adults say is best for you. Take those opinions but step back and decide what you truly want for your life. It’s ok to make mistakes but learn and move on. Get out and travel. Have adventures and push your comfort zone. Spend time with people who live different lives from yours. Have lots of fun at every stage of your life. Wherever you go, whatever you do be kind and honest with yourself and others.”

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