Members of the Brant New Democratic Party made a decision that turned some heads at their annual general meeting last Saturday, electing 17-year-old Ryan Jamula Brant NDP provincial riding association president.
Though he’s not old enough to vote or enjoy an adult beverage, Brant NDP members seem confident Jamula is mature enough to serve as a leader within their organization.
As provincial riding association president, Jamula will serve as the chief liaison between the Brant NDP and provincial New Democratic Party. He will run meetings, serve as a party organizer and work as a media representative, among other duties. As some in Brant’s chattering class have pointed out since last week’s decision, there are real questions as to whether such a young individual is up to the task of such an important political job.
To be sure, the decision to elect such a young president is fraught with risk. What about real-world experience? Is someone still in high school really prepared to take on such a role? What about political experience – how much can someone who is 17 years old really have? Was there not an adult in the room who might want to take on the job? Just some of the questions (the last one tongue-in-cheek) that have been asked since NDP members chose Jamula for his new role.
Here at Brant News, we don’t count ourselves among those criticizing the Brant NDP for its decision. While recognizing the risks, we in fact see potential rewards for the Brant New Democratic Party. At the very least, this impressive 17-year-old who boasts a political resume that most other teens would find hard to equal deserves a chance to prove himself.
Currently a Grade 12 student at Brantford Collegiate Institute, Jamula has been a member and volunteer with the Brant NDP for the past six years. During five election campaigns in Brant, he’s served in roles including youth activator, volunteer trainer, canvass co-ordinator and election planning committee member. Jamula has also led the Brant Young New Democrats as president for the past four years, during which time the local NDP youth association has become one of the most active in Canada. The Brant NDP also says Jamula has a strong record of meeting management, fundraising, volunteer and member recruitment and public speaking. He is also the co-founder of the annual Brantford Youth Leadership Conference.
So, there seems little doubt that Jamula has done a lot for the Brant NDP – and likely learned a lot – in a short period of time. But where’s the real potential upside for the Brant NDP in voting Jamula into his new role? It’s the very same issue that has many criticizing the party’s decision: his age.
The Brant NDP has been building some degree of momentum in recent elections and Jamula’s youth may help continue that trend.
The 17-year-old is aiming to bring more youth into the Brant NDP riding association, grow membership numbers and increase the number of party volunteers. If he is able to accomplish those goals by attracting more young members to the party, the Brant NDP could benefit in the long term. And, as Jamula points out in this week’s Brant News, young people involved in politics can provide a lot of leg power during an election campaign, not to mention a lot of passion.
It’s often said that not enough young people are involved in politics. We’re glad to see one very politically active 17-year-old taking on an important role in Brant riding. And, if successful in his goals, Jamula just might help the Brant NDP lay the groundwork for future successes.