Youths in a Canadian Community “Step Up”

Jade with teens (left to right) Sufia Khondher, Olivia Zhang, and Yuna Chiu, who served as members of the Youth Events Squad for “Surrey Steps Up”

On March 15, the city of Surrey in British Columbia hosted its 10th annual “Surrey Steps Up” event. The showcase took place at Surrey City Hall. It was held in collaboration with the City of Surrey, the Surrey School District, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

The annual event highlights initiatives undertaken by young people in the community. The goal is to encourage more teens to “step up” and be leaders. An estimated 500 students attended.

“This is a youth-led event,” said Sam Braganza, who heads the youth intervention and outreach program for the RCMP. “We like to highlight some of the positive things that happen in Surrey because a lot of people don’t know about them.”


Jade with Dakota Grange and Mark De La Cruz, Surrey School District staff members


Planning for the event begins in October, with a call for high school students to join the Youth Leadership Team (YLT). Students participate in bi-weekly meetings to plan the event, with guidance from Braganza.

“The students meet outside of school time and on a volunteer basis based on interest,” said Dakota Grange, assistant manager of Safe Schools, a school district initiative. “They make all the decisions on their own, just with Sam’s guidance.”

The students choose which performers they’d like to invite. This year’s event featured performances by an Indigenous teen drummer and a young Indian dance group.

A total of 32 student booths displayed projects that included everything from homemade soap to research on the impact of decreased classroom sunlight. School clubs and committees also displayed their work in the hope of recruiting new members. 


Jade with Huy Nguyen, who represented his high school robotics club at “Surrey Steps Up”


I was able to attend the event, where I spoke with several participants. Olivia Zhang, 14, explained the work of the Youth Events Squad. “It’s not the usual volunteering,” she said. “This is unique because you come in with a group of people to plan events.” Olivia’s group has planned five community events for young people this year, including a jazz night and a basketball slam jam.

Huy Nguyen, 16, represented his high school robotics club. “In September, they release a video game,” Huy explained. “Then we all come together to figure out a way to solve it.”

The group built a robot named “Patrick” for the game. Attendees could observe Patrick in action at the booth.

According to Mark De La Cruz, the event offers a chance for the Surrey community to see its young people in a different light. “It’s a real cool opportunity to showcase what our kids do in our community,” said De La Cruz, who is youth diversity liaison for the Surrey School District. “A lot of kids get a bad rep in Surrey. We always hear about the negative things, but we really do have a lot of amazing things like this event.”

These sentiments were echoed by Brenda Locke, the mayor of Surrey. “A huge thank you to all of you who are dedicated to making our city and our world a better place,” she said to the students in an opening address. “You are all the leaders of tomorrow. Your efforts today don’t go unnoticed.”


Members of the Youth Leadership Team address the audience at the event. 

Photos courtesy of the author