13 Jun Youth Central 9 Alumni: Ali Shivji
Youth Central is celebrating its 25th anniversary!
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 Hui Wen Zheng, one of YAA junior editors.
The next alumnus highlighted is Ali Shivji, a volunteer from 1992-1998. Ali was one of the first members of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) (now the Calgary Mayor’s Youth Council) when it began in 1992, and was also part of the Youth Volunteer Corps Steering Committee.
Ali recalls his first project with Youth Central as a pretty peculiar one. “I had a sledgehammer and we were demolishing the CUPS building downtown, the one with the dove mural on the side of it.”
He cites being part of the MYAC as one of the defining moments in his teenage years as really opening his eyes up to the leadership potential of youth, and provided him a community to be part of in the crucial years of his life.
“Just being able to get involved… I think it gave me a place of belonging, especially when I was in junior high and high school. It gave me a place where I could meet kids from other schools and other places, but also feel like I had a purpose.”
Though he was a volunteer with Youth Central in its early years, Ali continued his involvement in the organization as a board member from 2004-2006. He understands that, while new projects and committees are constantly formed and improved, there are several common experiences that all volunteers have.
“No matter when or how you engage with [Youth Central] there are underlying things that are consistent to everyone’s experience, and they would be a sense of inclusion, a sense of challenge and curiosity, a sense of giving back to your community, and the ability to feel like your suggestions and ideas are taken seriously.”
For Ali, it was a “meaningful experience serving on the MYAC,” as it made him feel as though his voice was being heard, which is sometimes uncommon for youth in the community to feel.
Ali graduated from Western Canada High School in 1998, and completed his undergraduate degree at McGill University as a recipient of the TD Scholarship. He has continued to foster his leadership skills through a start-up of an NGO that targets the problem of AIDS in Africa, and currently works as an entrepreneur and expert in the senior care industry. He cites his experiences with Youth Central as a teaching him “the importance of giving back to civil society” and helping him internalize his commitment to the community.
As for a final piece of advice, Ali preaches the importance of knowing the people you surround yourself with: